CBC Literary Prizes

Aranaj, the Fishmonger Who Wept for the Fish

Helen Han Wei Luo has made the 2020 CBC Short Story Prize longlist for Aranaj, the Fishmonger Who Wept for the Fish.

2020 CBC Short Story Prize longlist

Helen Han Wei Luo is a writer from Vancouver. (Submitted by Helen Han Wei Luo)

Helen Han Wei Luo has made the 2020 CBC Short Story Prize longlist for Aranaj, the Fishmonger Who Wept for the Fish.

The shortlist will be announced on April 15. The winner will be announced on April 22.

About Helen

Helen Han Wei Luo grew up in Vancouver and is currently completing an undergraduate degree in philosophy at Simon Fraser University. Her writing has been published by the Poetry Institute of Canada, Eber & Wein and Polar Expressions. She was previously longlisted for the CBC Nonfiction Prize in 2016. She is working on a collection of poetry tentatively titled All the Grains of Sand in Samsara and remains obstinately attached to a low fantasy novel manuscript she began writing in her adolescence.

Entry in five-ish words

A man's desperate, halfmoon scales.

The story's source of inspiration

"I've always found the longstanding mythological legacy of animal brides in cultural fiction both enlightening and beautiful. Collectively, their narrative structure sheds light on historical perceptions of sexuality, cultural norms, female autonomy, the animal world, self-sacrifice and the Other.

"It's hard to deny that these plots generally reward characters for wrongful actions (duplicity, kidnapping, forced marriage) and are therefore likely unpalatable for modern sensibilities, but I think they nevertheless have lovely qualities that merit contemporary literary exploration. In particular, I was fascinated by the analogue to queer spaces and identities — and how existence in queer bodies can be as devastating as the divide between the human and the inexorable Otherness of the animal.

"Perhaps most philosophically, I wanted to question if it is possible to exist at all under conditions when one rejects one's self, and views the objects of one's desire as perverse. In modern terms, I wanted to tell a meditative story surrounding the mental health implications of conflict between internalized social standards and authentic self-actualization."

First lines

Hovered over the butchery block, with a feverish sun dipping below the smattering of trees, its perfumed orange incandescence setting over the hamlet, Aranaj glided the knife over the sanguine moisture of the carp, spilling a vile mist that beckoned lasciviously to the flies. Severed fins and heads gathered in silvery heaps; mountains and valleys under the dominion of the house grub. Aranaj stared blankly at the roundness, the darkness of the decapitated cyclops, sectioning the flesh by weight and quality, his fingers sliding smoothly, intimately, sensually into the skin. It had been years since he felt the touch of a woman. That was his penance.

About the 2020 CBC Short Story Prize

The winner of the 2020 CBC Short Story Prize will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, have their work published on CBC Books and attend a two-week writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. Four finalists will each receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and have their work published on CBC Books.

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