John le Carré is famous for writing dazzling novels about the contemporary world – whether he is writing about the Cold War in the 1960s, the 'War on Terror' in the early twenty-first century and, today, in Our Kind of Traitor; a story that could have come straight out of Wikileaks. To celebrate the paperback publication of Our Kind of Traitor, Penguin in collaboration with the Daily Telegraph launched a competition in February, inviting anyone in the UK between 16-18 years old to write a short story that reflects the contemporary world. It could be any genre and the word limit was 2000 words.
Two months and over one hundred entries later, Penguin are proud to announce the shortlist for the prize. It was judged by the fiction editors at Penguin, and the winner will now be picked by John le Carré. Ben Brusey, one of the editors who judged the shortlist had this to say:
'I'd like to congratulate all of the writers who entered the competition. To write a short story and create a whole world in just two thousand words is what some authors spend their whole lives trying to achieve. That you have been able to do this, with so much flair and imagination, and at such a depressingly young age, is extremely impressive. The stories ranged greatly in geography, subject and style, from revolutionary tales in North Africa, to civil unrest on the streets of London, to the perils of technology in our information age. Great characters were born, and touching relationships forged. You should all take enormous pride in the stories that you have written and I am certain that many of you will be appearing on many more literary shortlists in the future. As for the shortlisted writers, a special congratulations.'
A Tale from the Holy Land by Rory Tingle, Age 17, King's College School, London
What the judges said: "A dramatic and harrowing tale of a young boy in the West Bank who witnesses a suicide bombing, only to discover that his father was responsible for the blast."
But He Didn't by Lottie Pyper, Age 17, Marlborough College, Wiltshire
Nobody Important by Simon James, Age 17, Sir John Deane's College, Cheshire
What the judges said: "A modern day parable about the dangers of internet chat rooms and online relationships, with a fresh and clever twist."
Sons of Abraham by Alasdair Wood, Age 18, Worcester Sixth Form College, Worcester
What the judges said: "Set in the outskirts of Jerusalem, an urgent and evocative story about two boys who are caught up in a mistaken government terrorist raid."
Untitled by Helen Price, Age 16, Haberdashers' Monmouth School for Girls, Monmouthshire
What the judges said: "A touching story about a secret relationship between a librarian and a reader who pass notes to each other hidden in their favourite books, only tragically never to meet in person."
Nigeria in Pink by Edward Scott, Age 17, Parmiter's School, Hertfordshire
What the judges said: "Set in Nigeria, a poetic tale with a powerful conceit where homosexuality is the norm and heterosexuals are persecuted."
The winning story will be announcted next Monday 9th May. It will published in the Daily Telegraph and on the Penguin website.The winner will receive a signed limited edition of le Carré's recent novel, Our Kind of Traitor, along with ten Penguin paperbacks at a special prize-giving event at the winner's school or sixth form college. The prize will be presented by John le Carré at the college or school attended by the winner, and the school or college will receive the full Penguin Decades collection – 20 classic novels from the last four decades.