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Ingrid Persaud wins £15,000 BBC prize for short story debut

Ingrid Persaud won for The Sweet Sop, written in West Indian patois (BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University)
Ingrid Persaud won for The Sweet Sop, written in West Indian patois (BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University)

Trinidadian writer Ingrid Persaud has won the BBC National Short Story Award for her debut tale about a father-son relationship, The Sweet Sop.

Persaud, who last year won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize for the same work, fended off competition from four others on the all-female shortlist to win the accolade and a £15,000 prize.

The Sweet Sop, written in West Indian patois, is about a young Trinidadian man who is reunited with his absent father through the power of chocolate.

Ingrid Persaud
Ingrid Persaud previously worked as an academic at King’s College London (Handout)

The story was praised by judges as “tender and ebullient, heartbreaking and full of humour”, and its balance between a range of emotions was also cited as one of its strengths.

Benjamin Markovits, writer and 2018 judge, said: “Sentimentality is hard to write well. There’s a temptation in fiction to make people colder and less loving than they really are, just to avoid it.

“The Sweet Sop gets the balance just right, the anger and humour and love.

“It’s a story about a guy who gets to know his father as he’s dying. He breaks through his dad’s reserve by bringing sweets, which they eat together, knowing that this is also a kind of betrayal of his mother, who raised him.

“It’s beautifully told, moving and natural – it takes enormous skill to tell a complex story so clearly.”

Persaud, 52, previously worked as an academic at King’s College London as well as a visual artist and a project manager before coming to writing in her 40s.

Her debut novel If I Never Went Home was published in 2014.

She beat previous BBC National Short Story Award winner Sarah Hall for Sudden Traveller, debut novelist Kerry Andrew for To Belong To, Kiare Ladner for Van Rensburg’s Card and Nell Stevens for The Minutes.

Persaud was announced as the winner at a ceremony at Cambridge University, and presented with the prize by the 2018 chairman of judges, journalist and writer Stig Abell.

The four other shortlisted writers will receive £600.

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