As 2020 comes to close, here is a collection of the year’s most popular fiction – with fresh work from Lydia Davis, Emma Cline and Mieko Kawakami, and introducing new writers like Sindya Bhanoo, Chloe Wilson and Anthony Veasna So. We also featured the winner of the 2020 Commonwealth Writers Prize, Kritika Pandey.
‘I held his hand until the ambulance arrived. It was the first time that I had held a man’s hand since my husband died.’
Sindya Bhanoo’s story, set in a retirement home in Tamil Nadu, was the winner of the 2020 Disquiet Prize for Fiction.
‘Men would nonchalantly joke about how their hobby was groping women, and believed without a doubt that rape was just a variety of sex. That was the world in which Narumi and her classmates lived.’
Mieko Kawakami explores shame and sex in a new story translated from the Japanese by Louise Heal Kawai and Hitomi Yoshio. The story was part of our ‘20 for 2020’ series, presenting new Japanese writing in translation.
‘She began to count; it was easier this way, counting, because she would not have to remember how she felt. She only had to remember how long she had counted.’
An excerpt from Ukamaka Olisakwe’s Ogadinma, Or, Everything Will Be All Right.
‘The last time she had been in a chat room was in high school, sleepovers where girls crowded around a desktop computer and wrote sickening things to men, all of it a joke’.
This story by Emma Cline appeared in Granta 152: Still Life, and is taken from her new collection Daddy.
‘Maud tries to understand how her role is being rewritten on the spot – who the woman might be.’
In a new story by Caoilinn Hughes, an actor considers her place in the system.
‘I am young and you say yes when you are young, you try it out, until you break and begin to say no. I was very young and I gave myself to anything that was like a placebo, like coasting without brakes or surrendering control.’
A short story by Magalí Etchebarne, translated from the Spanish by Julia Sanches and Charlotte Whittle.
‘Why are boys so dense? Gay boys should be less dense than other boys, no? So how come you are not? Marry a woman because that is what you should do. I am not saying you cannot be gay. How hard is it to be normal and gay?’
A young, queer man watches his Cambodian father struggle to survive in America – a story by Anthony Veasna So, who sadly died this month. His collection Afterparties will be published by Ecco next year.
‘You discover during your very first lessons that the problem of singing better involves overcoming many other problems you had not ever imagined.’
A new story from Lydia Davis – published in our spring print issue, guest-edited by Rana Dasgupta.
‘While waiting for his faecal transplant, my husband wasn’t as fun as he used to be.’
A darkly humorous story from Chloe Wilson.
‘The girl’s father wants the boy to be served chai in stainless steel cups only. If the girl mistakenly serves him in ceramic, her father waits for the customers to leave, then smashes the cup.’
Kritika Pandey’s ‘The Great Indian Tee and Snakes’ won the 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, as well as winning the regional prize for Asia.
The other regional winners were: ‘When a Woman Renounces Motherhood’ by Innocent Chizaram Ilo, representing Africa, ‘Mafootoo’ by Brian S. Heap for the Caribbean, ‘The Art of Waving’ by Andrea Macleod for the Pacific and ‘Wherever Mister Jensen Went’ by Reyah Martin for Canada and Europe.
Feature image © Joy