Author, Researcher, Peace & Conflict Professional


  • 2016/2017 apexart New York City (NYC) Fellow
  • 2014 Winner Burt Award for African Literature, Kenya Chapter
  • 2010 Penguin Prize for African Writing nominee
  • Ist Prize, Adult Fiction Category – NBDCK  Literary Awards, September 2008 Book Week


jonathan telThe Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award 2016

Jonathan Tell

Last night Petina Gappah missed winning the EFG Short Story Award but the winner Jonathan Tel was truly deserving!  The winner was announced at a gala dinner hosted by EFG at Stationers' Hall in London. Tel becomes the first British writer to win the £30,000.00 Sunday Times Award with his story ‘The Human Phonograph’.  Tel's winning story centres on a marriage lived in the shadow of the Chinese nuclear weapons programme of the 1960s. He was previously shortlisted in 2014 for his story, 'The Shoe King of Shanghai' and also won the 2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.


'The Human Phonograph' is set in the mysterious Factory 221 in Qinghai and examines the relationship between a husband and wife who have not seen each other for seven years.


Judge and best-selling author, Rose Tremain said:  ‘‘The hesitant relationship between a husband and wife who barely know each other forms the basis of this troubling, well-wrought story, set on a Chinese nuclear base in the 1960s and 70s. But it is the image taken from the title - of a man who, in a silent, punitive and desolate world, can remember the old songs and sing them perfectly every time - that elevates it to something truly memorable. The decision to award the prize to this work was unanimous among the judges and we all feel that Jonathan Tel has a bright future as a fiction writer’.’


Andrew Holgate, judge and literary editor of the Sunday Times commented: "Jonathan Tel’s winning story is a remarkable and very moving feat of storytelling and it’s all the more remarkable when you consider the huge number of entries we had this year – over 800, a record for the prize."

Tel’s published books include a story collection about Israelis and Palestinians, Arafat’s Elephant (Counterpoint), which was short-listed for the PEN/Hemingway Award, a novel, Freud’s Alphabet (Simon & Schuster), and The Beijing of Possibilities (Other Press), a story sequence that unfolds in contemporary China, which was short-listed for the Commonwealth Writers Award.


Apart from Gappah winner of the Guardian First Book Award and who was recently on the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction long-list and, Tel fended off stiff competition from American Edith Pearlman, author of over 250 works of short fiction, Irish writer Colum McCann the Man Booker long-listed author of Transatlantic, American writer Alix Christie and Canadian novelist Nicholas Ruddock. As winner, Jonathan Tel will receive £30,000 and the other five short-listed writers will each receive £1,000.00


Previous winners are 2015 Chinese-American writer Yiyun Li for her story 'A Sheltered Woman' (the first woman to win the prize), three Pulitzer prize winners: US author Adam Johnson (2014), US-Dominican author Junot Diaz (2013) and US author Anthony Doerr (2011) - Kevin Barry from Ireland (2012), and CK Stead from New Zealand (2010)


Congratulations to winner Jonathan Tel and the other short-listed writers!



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