ELECTRIFYING NEW VOICE NIAMH CAMPBELL WINS THE SUNDAY TIMES AUDIBLE SHORT STORY AWARD 2020
IRELAND SCOOPS RICHEST SHORT STORY AWARD FOR SECOND YEAR RUNNING
Campbell triumphs over an outstanding shortlist with her modern love story ‘Love Many’
You can listen to an audio excerpt of the winning story here
Irish author Niamh Campbell has won the 2020 Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award with her story Love Many. She beat of stiff competition from fellow Irish author Louise Kennedy, Zambian author Namwali Serpell, Alexia Tolas from the Bahamas, and American authors Shawn Vestal and Daniel O’Malley. Niamh Campbell is the third Irish writer to win the Award, following in the footsteps of Danielle McLaughlin, who won the Award last year, and Kevin Barry, who won in 2012.
Judge David Nicholls commented: “This is an original and touching modern love story. It has such a lovely quality of sadness, exquisite language, and is told with so much delicacy and precision. I was frequently taken aback by an image or an observation. Most of all, I loved the melancholy of it, that atmosphere of late nights and missed chances.”
Judge Andrew Holgate commented: “We were completely seduced as a judging panel by Niamh Campbell's Love Many –immaculately written, haunting, richly imagined and psychologically astute, with phrases that will stay with you. One of the great joys of the Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award is its ability, because of the “blind ” reading by judges, to discover remarkable new voices. And Campbell clearly demonstrates with this story just how remarkable she is, and what a natural short story writer. After the prize's discovery of Sally Rooney, and after Danielle McLaughlin carried off the award last year, Campbell's win just confirms, if confirmation was needed, the striking rise of female Irish voices on the world literary stage.”
Love Many is set in Niamh Campbell’s hometown of Dublin and follows the recollections of a woman who has finally met a man she sees a future with, after dating a host of unsuitable men. Love Many is about a search for intimacy and understanding and about the emotional toll relationships can take; a truly modern love story. This year is turning out to be an incredible year for Campbell, as she also last month published her debut novel, This Happy (Weidenfeld & Nicolson).
The other stories in the 2020 shortlist touch on betrayal and secrets, relationships and love, community and family. The 2019 shortlistee Louise Kennedy’s story Sparing the Heather focuses on an unhappily married woman who is having an affair with her English tenant in rural Ireland. Set in the aftermath of The Troubles, this is a tightly woven story of betrayal, and its impact on family lives. American writer Daniel O'Malley’s story, Simon, is about a childless couple who take in a mysterious, neglected young boy; it is a story both tender and disquieting about responsibility, boundaries and love. Zambian writer Namwali Serpell’s story Take It is set in Berkeley and follows a homeless teenager as he stumbles across a college party where everyone has cast off their inhibitions – starting with their clothes. The idea for the story was based on the author’s own experience. Alexia Tolas’s Granma’s Porch is a love story which explores the complex relationship between a young woman and a newcomer to her small community in the Bahamas. Completing the shortlist is American writer Shawn Vestal, whose Teamwork is a bittersweet and incredibly funny story about a 1980s high school American football team and its disastrous season – on and off the field.The competition is now in its eleventh year, and the winner was chosen by a panel of immensely authoritative judges that includes novelist and screen-writer David Nicholls; novelist and short-story writer Carys Davies; prize-winning author Diana Evans; acclaimed short-story writer and novelist Romesh Gunesekera; and Andrew Holgate, Literary Editor of The Sunday Times. The Award reflects The Sunday Times’s support for outstanding writing and the rich literary heritage of the newspaper. 2020 saw 983 eligible entries, from 48 countries, with all continents (with the exception of Antarctica) represented, demonstrating the multinational reach of the Award.
2020 is the second year running that Audible, the leading provider of audio storytelling, has sponsored the Award. Audible will produce an audio anthology of the shortlisted stories, which will be available in the coming months. Last year’s anthology podcast became one of Audible’s best-selling fiction podcasts. Before then, the stories will be available to read on the Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award website.
Previous winners of the Award include three Pulitzer Prize-winning American authors – Junot Díaz, Anthony Doerr and Adam Johnson – as well as Chinese-American novelist Yiyun Li, CK Stead from New Zealand, Jonathan Tel from the UK, Kevin Barry from Ireland, and Bret Anthony Johnston and Courtney Zoffness from America. Shortlisted authors include Colum McCann, Petina Gappah, Hilary Mantel, Emma Donoghue, Elizabeth Strout, Ali Smith, David Vann, Gerard Woodward, Curtis Sittenfeld, Emma Cline and Miranda July. The 2019 winner was Irish writer Danielle McLaughlin.
The prize continues to extend its reach this year, and its championing of the short story form – with the forthcoming Audible recording of the shortlisted stories, and with a new initiative, the Short Story Library, which launches this Sunday, July 5 on the prize website and will feature two strands – a regular monthly tutorial by acclaimed writers, starting with Joe Dunthorne, about the mechanics of short story writing, and a growing library, beginning with Colm Tóibín and Yiyun Li, of famous writers talking about and championing their favourite short stories.
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Niamh Campbell was born in 1988 and grew up in Dublin. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in The Dublin Review, 3:AM, Banshee, gorse, Five Dials and Tangerine. She was awarded a Next Generation literary bursary from the Arts Council of Ireland, and annual literary bursaries in 2018 and 2019. She holds a PhD in English from King's College London and has been a postdoctoral fellow for the Irish Research Council at Maynooth University. Her debut novel This Happy was published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson in June 2020. She lives and works in Dublin.
About the Award
Originally launched by Lord Evans of EFG Private Bank and Cathy Galvin of The Sunday Times in 2010, The Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award is the richest prize for a single short story in the English language. Worth £30,000 to the winner, the international annual award aims to promote and celebrate the excellence of the modern short story, and has attracted entries from some of the world’s finest writers.
2019 Danielle McLaughlin
2018 Courtney Zoffness
2017 Bret Anthony Johnston
2016 Jonathan Tel
2015 Yiyun Li
2014 Adam Johnson
2013 Junot Diaz
2012 Kevin Barry
2011 Anthony Doerr
2010 CK Stead