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Introducing our 2020 longlisted authors: Dur e Aziz Amna

Dur e Aziz Amna cr Nelson Pinheiro.jpgView larger
Dur e Aziz Amna. Photograph by Nelson Pinheiro

Meet the authors longlisted for the 2020 Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award

Dur e Aziz Amna is a writer based between Rawalpindi and Michigan. Her writing won the 2019 Bodley Head / Financial Times Essay Prize and placed second in the 2017 London Magazine Short Story Competition. Her work has also appeared in Longreads, Road & Kingdoms, Himal Southasian, and Dawn, among others. She received a Bachelors in English Literature from Yale University in 2015. Currently, she is an MFA candidate at the University of Michigan, where her debut novel-in-progress has won the 2020 Busch Prize.

She is longlisted for the short story: You Get What is Yours

In Bahawalpur, Pakistan, a woman recounts to her brother the scandal she has recently witnessed, as the attendant to a living saint, Bibo Mai. As the events she describes move towards their shocking and tragic conclusion, implicating witnesses as well as the perpetrators, this immersive, absorbing story examines the nature of belief, sin, hypocrisy, and moral transgressions.

What inspired you to write the story? Is it drawn from personal experience?

My mother’s family lives near Bahawalpur, Pakistan, and I grew up frequently immersed in the revered saint culture of southern Punjab.

How does writing short stories differ from writing full-length fiction, and what do you enjoy about writing in the genre?

I started writing fiction two years ago and have spent most of that time working on my novel. Writing short stories is often a more frustrating enterprise for me. In millennial speak, it can sometimes feel like hook-up culture, moving from one thing to another without having the time to really dwell inside one. There are consolations though. I love the completeness of a perfect short story, and the fact that the genre allows for adventure, letting you tread into lives and landscapes that would be too daunting for a longer project.

How do you write? Longhand or typed? Why does your chosen method work for you?

Typed. I know people are romantic about longhand, but I can’t imagine writing and editing without Ctrl-F. I often take notes in longhand though.

What’s your favourite short story of all time? Who would you cast to read it?

Oh, man. I think the first short story I ever read was Manto’s Toba Tek Singh, which is a staple at this point, but it keeps coming back to me every now and then, perhaps because it was such a powerful introduction to the genre.

Which short story collection by another author would you recommend?

In Other Rooms, Others Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin has some near-perfect stories. Adichie’s The Thing Around Your Neck is spectacular.

Who would you cast to read the story you have entered?

This is entirely in the realm of the wishful, but I would faint of happiness if Zia Mohyeddin read out a story of mine.

What are you reading now?

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo.

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