I haven’t covered the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize on this blog before, but it’s high time I start — it’s a prize worth watching. Here’s a description from the prize webiste (which you can find here): “The 2011 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize is worth €35,000 to the winning author of a collection of short stories published for the first time, in English anywhere in the world [. . .].” Collections of previously published works are not eligible, but translations are.

For those who don’t know, Frank O’Connor was a master of the form. Earlier this year, Melville House published a beautiful edition of O’Connor’s study of the short story, The Lonely Voice. I read it and loved it. I don’t agree with all he said, but it was refreshing, so refreshing, to have someone taking the form seriously, not as just a shrunken novel or as apprentice work. I highly recommend The Lonely Voice and hope someday — perhaps as part of an extended series on short stories — to review the book itself.


Anyway, the prize itself has been in existence since 2005, when Yiyun Li won with her debut collection, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers (which also won the PEN/Hemingway Award and the Guardian First Book Award). The other five winners up to 2010 are Haruki Murakami, Miranda July, Jhumpa Lahiri, Simon Van Booy, and Ron Rash.

This year’s winner was announced last week:

  • Saints and Sinners by Edna O’Brien

The other finalists:

  • Death Is Not an Option, by Suzanne Rivecca
  • The Empty Family, by Colm Tóibín
  • Marry or Burn, by Valerie Trueblood
  • Light Lifting, by Alexander MacLeod (my review here)
  • Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, by Yiyun Li

My wife got me a copy of Saints and Sinners earlier this year that I still haven’t read, and I also have a copy of The Empty Family I need to get through.

Thanks to John Self, today I saw an article on the Guardian website by judge Chris Power (click here). In it, he says a number of things that struck a cord with me, this one the most: “If it was between this shortlist and the Booker’s, I know which one I’d read.”

Besides stating that his favorite was Li’s collection (which would have made her the first two-time winner of the prize), Power also lists a few books that didn’t make the shortlist that he recommends:

  • American Masculine, by Shann Ray
  • Circus Bulgaria, by Deyan Enev
  • What I Didn’t See, by Joy Fowler
  • Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, by Danielle Evans
  • Crime, by Ferdinand von Schirach
  • Volt, by Alan Heathcock (my review here)

I have a copy of American Masculine that I’m looking forward to, and Volt is one of my favorite reads of the year.

So, I’ll repent, update some parts of this site, and make sure the Frank O’Connor Award gets noticed here.

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