A pounds 15,000 competition designed to rejuvenate interest in the short story has generated more than 1,400 entries and produced a shortlist headed by the 77-year-old literary knight William Trevor.
The National Short Story Prize was established this year by Nesta (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts), with the support of BBC Radio 4 and Prospect magazine, to re-establish the importance of the British story after years of perceived neglect.
The first shortlist of five included one newcomer and a clutch of more established names. The winner will be announced next month.
Francine Stock, the broadcaster who chaired the judges, said: "We need more short stories in our lives. When you find a good one you simply drop into another world. All five of these stories do that in a few thousand words.
"Our award's first shortlist demonstrates the breadth of talent for the short story in the UK, from William Trevor, elder statesman of the form, to Rana Dasgupta, whose first novel was only published last year." Trevor, 77, who was born in Ireland but lives in Devon, is in the running for his story Men of Ireland, about a homeless man's appeal for help, which was published in The New Yorker magazine last year.
Although he has won prizes including the Whit-bread, he describes himself as a short-story writer who also writes novels.
The other contenders are Rose Tremain, James Las-dun, Michael Faber and Rana Dasgupta.
Tremain, born in 1943, lives in Norfolk and London, and is short listed for The Ebony Hand, about a woman's efforts to look after her late sister's daughter.
The story was published last year in a collection of her short stories, The Death of Wallis Simpson. Tremain has also written nine novels including Music and Silence, which won the Whit-bread Novel Award and is being developed as a film. …