Bangladeshi writer Farah Ghuznavi on her prize-winning story ‘Judgement Day’


Farah-GhuznaviIn 2010, I was amazed and delighted when my flash fiction piece ‘Judgement Day’ won Highly Commended in the Commonwealth Short Story Competition. At the time, entries to the competition consisted of no more than 600 words; and while those words could in theory be written on any topic, the organisers did provide a theme each year to assist the undecided writer.

In 2010, the theme was ‘Science, Technology and Society’. When I heard about it, my heart sank. I knew very little about writing flash fiction, and even less about science and technology! By default, my focus would have to be on the ‘society’ part of that equation. Anyway, I’m not quite sure where the original idea came from, but I ended up writing a piece exploring how the institution of marriage might change in the future as a result of advances in science and technology, and what might remain disturbingly familiar to us today – a kind of futuristic fable.

After the story appeared on the winners list for 2010, it was recorded onto a CD with the other winning stories, and broadcast on radio stations around the world, in various parts of the Commonwealth. I found it enormously exciting to think of a story by a Bangladeshi writer being heard on the airwaves as far afield and in countries as diverse as Jamaica, Australia, India, Nigeria, Canada etc. It meant a lot – both because it was a huge honour to be chosen, and because it validated my aspirations as a writer.

But over time I came to realise that what ‘Judgement Day’ had done for me went well beyond the immediate benefits of achieving recognition in a prestigious competition. Indeed, it taught me a number of lessons that were only properly distilled over some time. Here are a few of those lessons.

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