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January 21 , 2011

The BBC International Short Story Award 2012



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This tradional American western folk ballad with English words by either Percy Montrose or Barker Bradford in 1848 is set to the Spanish folk song Romance del Conde Olinos o Nino and Down by the River Liv'd a Maiden by H. S. Thompson (1863). It was made popular by Mexican miners during the California Gold Rush between 1848 and 1860 and has been…

"I’m sorry I wrote you such a long letter," quipped Blaise Pascal famously, "I didn’t have time to write you a short one."

Brevity may be the soul of wit, but as Clive Anderson argues in his introduction to this collection, it is also, very often, the hard-won soul of great literature. What remains unsaid – just as much as what is said – distinguishes a great story: whether it is through subtle gaps in a narrative or the intentional concealment of things.

Absence and disappearance provide recurring themes in the ten stories shortlisted for this year’s Award: the abandonment of family members – estranged wives and errant husbands; the loss of a childhood friend and computer games mentor; or the convenient vanishing of whatever we deem disposable – through a portable, pocket-sized black hole.

In 2012, to mark the London Olympics, the BBC has opened the Award up to English-speaking writers from around the world. The ten shortlisted stories assembled here – from as far afield as South Africa, North America, Australia, Ireland and the Balkans – show the extraordinary diversity and richness of the short story as a truly global form. This year’s judges included authors Anjali Joseph, Ross Raisin and Michèle Roberts, BBC Editor of Readings, Di Speirs, and the broadcaster and comedian Clive Anderson, who also chaired the panel.

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