Adam Johnson honored with short story award for ‘Nirvana’

Adam Johnson
Adam Johnson

English Professor and Pulitzer Prize winner ADAM JOHNSON has won The Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award. The £30,000 prize is the largest in its field.

According to the announcement on the website BookTrust, Johnson’s story is “set in the near future” and “employs science-fiction themes and imagery to explore personal tragedy.” The story draws from the life of the late singer KURT COBAIN and his band, Nirvana.

Ironically, Johnson accepted the award in a ceremony at the Stationer’s Hall in London on April 5, 20 years to the day that Cobain died.

Although best known for his Pulitzer-prize winning novel, The Orphan Master’s Son, Johnson has been happy to “follow what fills his imagination” and write a collection of short stories called “Interesting Facts” set for publication by Random House in 2015. The story “Nirvana” will appear in that collection.
When writing novels, Johnson admits to missing the shorter form  –  the discovery, the struggle, the battle and the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing a story. For Johnson, the form can also be freeing because the short story feels closer to that moment of witness where one human being has true access to another.

“I was inspired by a combination of my wife’s struggle with cancer and a friend who took his own life,” Johnson explained.  “When my wife was going through chemo, and my friend shot himself, I began asking questions about what our duty is to dying people and the departed, when they go, and what remains and how we speak to them and share what they go through.”

In his presentation speech, the Sunday Times literary critic and prize judge JOHN  CAREY described “Nirvana” as “a mind-expanding, futurist story and a story about redemption.” Another judge, novelist and comic DAVID BADDIEL, said, “I loved ‘Nirvana.’ It was both sad and, rare in literary-competition-land, funny. Plus it proves that genre fiction – the story is, at heart, science fiction – can work, emotionally and artistically, at the highest levels.”

– BY KATE CHESLEY and TANU WAKEFIELD

Read more about the prize on  The BookHaven