CBC Literary Prizes

We're Watching You by Farah Ahamed

Farah Ahamed has made the 2019 CBC Short Story Prize longlist for We’re Watching You.

2019 CBC Short Story Prize longlist

Farah Ahamed is a London-based author with roots in Vancouver and Calgary. (Alnoor Bhimani)

Farah Ahamed has made the 2019 CBC Short Story Prize longlist for We're Watching You.

About Farah

Farah studied at the University of British Columbia, and has worked and lived in East Africa and the UK. Her stories have been published in various anthologies and journals including The Massachusetts Review, Thresholds, Comma Press, The Missing Slate, Enkare Review, Kwani? and Out of Print. She was highly commended in the 2016 London Short Story Prize, was a joint winner of the inaugural Gerald Kraak Award and has been nominated for The Caine Prize for African Writing and The Pushcart Prize.

Entry in five-ish words

A guilty conscience pricks the mind.

The story's source of inspiration

"A few years ago, I lived in Kampala. One of the things that struck me was the large number of Kaloli marabou storks, perched on the roofs and treetops, like sentries guarding the city. I felt they were policing me. At the same time, a friend was going through a breakup after an affair. The two ideas somehow came together when I started working on the story. 

"While writing, it occurred to me to experiment with second person pronouns. I thought the use of 'You,' could offer a certain accusatory tone, while 'We,' could give a 'holier than thou,' loftiness. I also wanted to play with the idea of a Greek tragedy; where the passivity of the chorus is set up as distinct from the activity of the main character. In my story, while the tragic protagonist acts in defiance of the limits set by society, the chorus expresses judgement of her, and its verdict ultimately pushes her over the edge."

First lines

We're watching you. You're trying to reverse into the space between the street lamp and the Mvule tree in which three Marabou storks hover. A tout hanging out of a matatu bangs the roof of your car and shouts something obscene about women drivers. You swear, and we bet you're tempted to bang the lamp post or the tree. You honk at a pedestrian on his mobile blocking your space. He jumps out of the way and the scavengers above shriek and flap their wings. You alight from your car and look up. They couldn't know about you. Only we do.  

About the 2019 CBC Short Story Prize

The winner of the 2019 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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