The stories shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award with BookTrust 2017 all feature characters that are disconnected, willingly or unwillingly, from those around them: a mysterious out-of-towner is shunned by her new colleagues; a grieving husband retreats into his old compulsion for hoarding; a promising academic risks his career for a casual liaison with a younger man. And whether we follow the characters’ need to be alone – like the fisherman drifting dangerously far from shore – or trace it back to its root – like the daughter burying her violent father – what we find there is always unexpected.
Jenni Fagan, Benjamin Markovits and Helen Oyeyemi, three of Granta’s recent ‘20 under 40’, are joined by critic and novelist, Will Eaves and Wales Book of the Year Fiction Prize winner, Cynan Jones on the 2017 shortlist.
This year’s shortlist was selected by authors Eimear McBride, Jon McGregor and Sunjeev Sahota, as well as BBC Radio’s Di Speirs and acclaimed novelist Joanna Trollope who chaired the panel and introduces the collection.
Will Eaves was born in Bath in 1967 and educated at Beechen Cliff Comprehensive and King’s College, Cambridge. He worked for twenty years as a journalist and was the Arts Editor of the Times Literary Supplement from 1995 to 2011. He teaches in the Writing Programme at the University of Warwick. He is the author of four novels: The Oversight (Picador, 2001; shortlisted for the Whitbread – now Costa – First Novel Award), Nothing To Be Afraid Of (Picador, 2005; shortlisted for the Encore Award), This Is Paradise (Picador, 2012), and The Absent Therapist (CB Editions, 2014; shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize); and two collections of poetry: Sound Houses (Carcanet, 2011) and The Inevitable Gift Shop (CB Editions, 2016; shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry).
Jenni Fagan was born in Livingston, Scotland, and lives in Edinburgh. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and was shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize, the Desmond Elliott Prize, and the James Tait Black Prize for her debut novel The Panoptican (2012). In 2013, she was selected as one of Granta’s Best Young British Young Novelists and appointed as a writer-in-residence at the University of Edinburgh. The Sunlight Pilgrims (2016) is her second novel.
Cynan Jones was born near Aberaeron on the west coast of Wales in 1975. He is the author of five novels, The Long Dry, Everything I Found on the Beach, The Dig, Bird, Blood, Snow and Cove. His work is widely translated, and short stories have appeared on BBC Radio 4 and in a number of anthologies and publications including Granta Magazine and The New Yorker. He also scripted an episode of the television crime drama Hinterland. He has won a Betty Trask Award, the Wales Book of the Year Fiction Prize, and a Jerwood Fiction Prize, and a chapter of The Dig was shortlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award in 2013. His latest novel Cove is currently longlisted for the Europese Literatuurprijs (in the Netherlands).
Benjamin Markovits grew up in Texas, London, Oxford and Berlin. He left an unpromising career as a professional basketball player to study the Romantics – an experience he wrote about in Playing Days, a novel. Since then he has taught high school English, worked at a left-wing cultural magazine, and written essays, stories and reviews for, among other publications, The New York Times, Esquire, Granta, The Guardian, The London Review of Books and The Paris Review. He has published seven novels, including Either Side of Winter, about a New York private school, and a trilogy on the life of Lord Byron: Imposture, A Quiet Adjustment and Childish Loves. His most recent novel, You Don’t Have To Live Like This, about an experimental community in Detroit, won the James Tait Black Prize for Fiction in 2015. In 2009 he was a fellow of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard and won a Pushcart Prize for his short story Another Sad, Bizarre Chapter in Human History. Granta selected him as one of the Best of Young British Novelists in 2013. Markovits lives in London and is married, with a daughter and a son. He teaches Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London.
Helen Oyeyemi is the author of several highly acclaimed novels, including The Icarus Girl (2005); The Opposite House (2007); White is for Witching (2009), which won a Somerset Maugham Award and was a Shirley Jackson Award finalist; Mr Fox (2011) and Boy, Snow, Bird (2014), which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her short story collection, What is not yours is not yours was published in 2016 and won the PEN Open Book Award. Helen was selected as one of Granta's Best Young British Novelists in 2013.
"A dark, tense, and vital short novel. . . . Profound, powerful, and utterly absorbing."—The Guardian
"It is a book about the essentials: life and death, cruelty and compassion. It is a book that will get in your bones, and haunt you."—Daily Telegraph
"Cynan Jones's fourth novel, The Dig, is an extraordinarily powerful work—not in spite of its brevity but because of it. . . . In its marriage of profound lyricism and feeling for place, deep human compassion and unflinching savagery, this brief and beautiful novel is utterly unique."—Financial Times
Built of the interlocking fates of a badger-baiter and a farmer struggling through lambing season, The Dig unfolds in a stark rural setting where man, animal, and land are at loggerheads. There is no bucolic pastoral here: this is pure, pared-down rural realism, crackling with compressed energy, from a writer of uncommon gifts.
Cynan Jones was born near Aberaeron, Wales, in 1975. He is the author of three novels, The Long Dry (winner of a Betty Trask Award, 2007), Everything I Found on the Beach (2011), and The Dig (2014), winner of the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize. He is also the author of Bird, Blood, Snow (2012), the retelling of a medieval Welsh myth. The Dig is his first novel published in the United States.