Welsh author’s ‘exhilarating and terrifying’ short story wins top BBC prize
Cynan Jones fended off stiff competition from four others at the prestigious awards.
Welsh author Cynan Jones has claimed this year’s £15,000 literary bounty as he was named the winner of the BBC National Short Story Award.
Jones, 42, was presented with the prize for his short story The Edge Of The Shoal at a ceremony held at the BBC’s Radio Theatre in London.
The other shortlisted writers – Will Eaves, Jenni Fagan, Benjamin Markovits and Helen Oyeyemi – will each receive £600.
Acclaimed author Joanna Trollope chaired this year’s judging panel, alongside Irish writer Eimear McBride, Booker Prize-nominated author Jon McGregor, The Year Of The Runaways author Sunjeev Sahota and BBC Radio’s books editor Di Speirs.
McGregor praised Jones’ work for doing “something genuinely thrilling with the confines of the short story: for 6,000 words the reader exists only in the lived present moment, in a mental space where life is stripped of bare essentials”.
He went on to describe the work as an “exhilarating, terrifying and life-affirming read”.
The short story follows the dilemma facing a lone kayaker who gets stuck out on the water after being caught up in a storm.
Writer and judge McBride said: “I’ve thought about The Edge Of The Shoal most days since first reading it, months ago.
“Not the immaculate construction, or modernising take on the ‘man versus nature’ tale, but its tenderly devastating exploration of the body as it hangs outside time.
“It is as perfect a short story as I’ve ever read and works on the reader like an invasion, as all the best literature should.”
As well as the prize-winning short story, Jones is also the author of five novels – The Long Dry, Everything I Found On The Beach, The Dig, Cove, and Bird, Blood, Snow – and he wrote an episode of TV crime drama Hinterland.
His short stories have appeared on BBC Radio 4 and in publications including The New Yorker.
Of The Edge Of The Shoal, Jones said: “There’s no spare space in the short form. Everything counts.
“You have to create emotions and judgments, rather than describe them. A short story is a moment, not a journey.”