The BBC National Short Story Award Shortlist

It must be miles away. At any rate it was the Benedictine friars who fed and clothed and carried Montse, and went through the horrors of the teething process with her, and rang the chapel bells for hours the day she spoke her first words. And the monks set themselves the task of learning all they could about the needs of a child. Its throat thrums; a clear membrane slides down across the round eyes; it pulses in his cupped hands like a heart. You can listen to the stories on the BBC Radio 4’s new short story podcast, and the full text will be available in an anthology coming from Comma Press – in the meantime, here’s a little something by each of the shortlisted authors:
 
 
 
Benjamin Markovits:  
here’s ‘Books and Roses’,   one of our favourite stories from her, written for Granta 129: Fate. Now celebrating its twelfth year, the Award is one of the most prestigious for a single short story, with the winning author receiving £15,000, and four further shortlisted authors £600 each. ‘A golden chain was fastened around her neck, and on that chain was a key. It was both a comfort and a great frustration to Montse, this… Keep walking on, up through the back lanes looking for the sign. Cael scoops up a frog. More often than not they erred on the side of indulgence, and held debates on the matter of whether this extreme degree of fondness was a mortal sin or a venial one. Zephyrs, from Granta 123, is a story about finding hope in the wake of a natural disaster:
‘Frogs begin to hop along the road, migrating away from a fire that must, realistically, be miles away. The stars are so clear and the moon is full and each crater stands out starkly – up here it looks so much more like a planet.’ She had to wait. She was a daughter of the Virgin of Montserrat, and she felt instinctively and of course heretically that the Virgin herself was only a symbol of a yet greater sister-mother who was carefree and sorrowful all at once, a goddess who didn’t guide you or shield you but who went with you from place to place and added her tangible presence to your own when required.’
   
Will Eaves:
Will Eaves is a London-based author, journalist and former arts editor of the Times Literary Supplement. what could she call it, a notion, a suggestion, a promise? Three of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists 4   have made the shortlist for this year’s BBC National Short Story Award with BookTrust. She was given the surname Fosc, not just because she was black, but also because her origin was obscure. ‘The Waken’ by Jenni Fagan, ‘The Collector’ by Benjamin Markovits and ‘If a book is locked there’s probably a good reason for that, don’t you think?’ by Helen Oyeyemi are joined by critic and novelist Will Eaves’ ‘Murmur’, and ‘The Edge of the Shoal’ by Granta Books author Cynan Jones. This promise that somebody was coming back for her. Neither as a girl nor as a woman did Montse ever doubt the devotion of her many fathers, and in part it was the certainty of this devotion that saw her through times at school and times down in the city when people looked at her strangely or said insulting things; the words and looks sometimes made her lower her head for a few steps along the street, but never for long. If she’d been a white child the monks of Santa Maria de Montserrat might have given her into the care of a local family, but she was as black as the face and hands of the Virgin they adored. It will burn out by morning. As she grew up, the lock of every door and cupboard in the monastery was tested, to no avail.