Franco-British Council Short Story Prize

Earlier this month an expert panel awarded the annual Prospect/Franco-British Council prize for a short story inspired by France. The winning stories are reproduced below


1st Prize: Emile Nelligan est Mort,
by Iona Carmichael

After finding you in his company, I held Émile Nelligan in my hands. Although slim and delicate as a fish bone, he was heavy with a language I didn’t understand. I took him to the bridge. I leant over its side. January’s remains were starved and seagull-grey. The river was a spill of ink. When the leftovers of the day finally coloured the sky, I drowned him.

It began the day the clouds gathered and dropped hints of snow. December held its breath. My brain was restless. I’d retreated to Leaky’s, the only second-hand bookshop I know that serves drinks and home-made soup. I often go there to write. I like the cold and the hush and the smile of the old owner. Life has stretched her thin, skin tight over the gnarls and knots of her joints. I sat at one of the scrubbed wooden tables on the indoor balcony, pleasuring my tongue with real coffee.

That afternoon I gave up on my poem and wandered among the stacks, tightly packed with neglected books and the smell of vanilla-yellow paper. I drew my fingers along the shelves, until I came to a hardback that had edged forward, out of line with the other books. I eased it out. It was a volume of Auden’s poetry. And there was another book wedged within it. Its cover was a deep red, its spine crippled. There was no title. I opened it; a ghost of dust escaped.

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