BBC National Short Story Award: Kiare Ladner


20 September 2018
Kiare-Ladner-high-res-58260.JPG Kiare Ladner
Every day this week we're featuring an extract from one of the writers shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award. Today's featured author is Kiare Ladner


Every day this week we're featuring an extract from one of the writers shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award. Today's featured author is Kiare Ladner


Van Rensburg’s Card (extract)
Kiare Ladner

Greta drove fast along the rural road leading away from the small school where she taught maths. Fields of sugarcane mangy with drought gave way to mottled hills and grasslands. She sped past a scattered settlement of rondawels, some the colour of mud, others pale blue or green. Then a dry river bed, a couple of crudely penned kraals of nguni cattle and a rusted orange minivan in a ditch. She was bound to get another ticket to add to the mounting stack in the Ukhamba basket but she kept her foot on the pedal and turned the aircon up.

Eighteen months ago, she used to take pleasure in the drive between teaching and home. She would open the windows wide and blast out Miriam Makeba or Ella Fitzgerald or the Inuit throat-singing CD her daughter had sent from Canada. Tapping on the steering wheel, she’d sing and bop to the beat like an old fool imitation of her students, Fikile or Buhle. But these days music, any kind of music, was too much. The speedometer climbed from one twenty to one thirty. Children, perhaps those she taught, or their brothers or sisters, had been throwing stones at cars here recently. Going fast didn’t lessen the risk of being hit but it did help get the stretch over with.

What she dreaded wasn’t having the windscreen shattered, or even being a sitting duck for further violence, so much as the hassle of having to stop and talk to people. All morning she’d looked forward to being alone. Not in her home in Fairview Gardens complex with its quarry tiles and wildflower bedspreads and navy and cream batik curtains with ties – but out and about in the bustling distraction of the mall; out and about having a meal. She shifted her fleshy buttocks against the beaded seat cover picturing The Fayre and Square’s lunchtime buffet. A plate piled high with mealie bread, butternut and feta salad, chargrilled, smoky aubergine and cold, spicy frikkadels.

Until recently she’d never gone for a meal on her own anywhere; not a proper one, not a lunch or a dinner. Years back in Gauteng, she’d imagined herself doing it. Calling in sick to the boys‟ school where she taught and driving to a hotel in the centre of Jo’burg for a
steak with monkeygland sauce. Or catching a minibus to Chinatown for sticky jasmine rice and sweet and sour prawns. But before Harold died, eating out was something they did only together.

She’d always told him exactly where she was and what she was doing as if he were her keeper.
Quite possibly, he’d thought it was the other way around.


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The thirteenth BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University revealed an all-female shortlist on Friday 14th September, with writers exploring the personal, universal and the political. Former winner Sarah Hall is shortlisted for the third time for Sudden Traveller. Hall is joined on the shortlist by composer and debut novelist Kerry Andrew for To Belong To, Commonwealth Short Story Prize winner and debut novelist Ingrid Persaud for The Sweet Sop, rising talent Kiare Ladner for Van Rensburg’s Card and creative writing lecturer and novelist Nell Stevens for The Minutes.
The BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University was established to raise the profile of the short form and this year’s shortlist join distinguished alumni such as Zadie Smith, Lionel Shriver, Rose Tremain and Mark Haddon. As well as rewarding the most renowned short story writers, the Award has raised the profile of new writers including K J Orr and Cynan Jones.

The winners of the BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University will be announced on 2nd October on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row. The shortlisted stories are available in an anthology published by Comma Press, out now:


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