Read the remarkable short story that has now won both the BBC National Short Story and VS Pritchett awards, as first published in Prospectby Kate Clanchy / November 18, 2009 / Leave a comment
Image, above, by Jonathan Williams www.jonathanwilliams.co.uk
On 7th December, Kate Clanchy’s “The Not-Dead and the Saved”—published in the December issue of Prospect, and now free to read on our website—was awarded the BBC National Short Story Award. This is the second major award it has won this year, having already won the 2009 VS Pritchett Memorial Prize. Prospect co-founded the National Short Story Award, and has published work from the many of its previous winners and shortlisted authors.
This year’s VS Pritchett prize marked the first year of a collaboration between Prospect and the Royal Society of Literature, which has organised the VS Pritchett prize since 1999. Judged by Georgina Hammick, Jacob Ross and Prospect’s Tom Chatfield, “The Not-Dead and the Saved”—about a mother and son’s experience of his illness over the course of his life—stood out as a remarkable exploration of parental love and sacrifice.
The author, Kate Clanchy, has published three collections of poetry with Picador and won several awards for her previous writing, including the Somerset Maugham and Forward Prizes. Since 2003, she has been writing only prose. “Antigona and Me” (Picador), her 2008 memoir cum biography, won the Writers’ Guild Best Book Award. Short stories, she told Prospect, are a new venture: “This is my third. I’m pleased that it is entirely fictional; both because making something up is a new thing for me, and because my own children are lucky enough to be well.”
They’ve been asked to wait in Paediatrics. It is five o’clock, already; and the sun is streaming in through the high, unopenable windows. Thrum, thrum, thrum, resounds the concert in the day room, and his name is Aiken Drum.
The Son is lying on top of the blanket. He has lately taken to wearing aggressively small jeans which he customises with black thread and biro drawings in the style of Aubrey Beardsley. He taps his dirty fingers on his ripped T-shirt. His large, glittering brown eyes sweep the empty ward.
“Look,” he says, in his new, adolescent, scratchy voice, “A Not-Dead.”
“What?” says the Mother. The Mother has been putting off her tiredness for so long that it tends, like a neglected middle child, to leap at her at the least chance. Just now it is sitting on her lap, arms tight around her neck, breathing the scents of Paediatrics into her mouth: strawberry syrup, toasted…