Sarah Hall has become the first writer to win the BBC National Short Story Award for a second time.
Hall, who has been nominated four times, won for The Grotesques, a story set against a backdrop of privilege and inequality in a university town.
Judges praised the writer for her “extraordinary”, “layered” and “masterful” writing, and said her second victory in the competition is “recognition of her standing as the country’s foremost writer of short stories”.
News of her win was announced live on BBC Front Row on Tuesday.
Hall, who has previously been nominated for the Booker Prize, said: “I’m stunned to have won. No one expects to repeat a shortlisting, let alone be honoured with an award like this twice.
“It’s an incredible privilege and reward. And with this prize comes a tremendous amount of support for the form itself – from tenacious, passionate advocates at the BBC and Cambridge University, to expert judges, and the writers who continue to innovate, experiment and create astonishing, vital, questioning worlds within stories.”
Hall, who won in 2013 with her story Mrs Fox, applauded the diversity of this year’s shortlist and praised the short story as a form.
She said: “There are days when we are lost, when not much makes sense and answers to the vexing human question seem impossible. On those days nothing is as companionable as a short story. That goes for writing them too.”
Hall won ahead of 26-year-old British-Ghanaian writer and photographer Caleb Azumah Nelson, James Tait Black Prize winner Eley Williams, poet and newcomer Jack Houston and EU Prize for Literature for Ireland 2019 winner Jan Carson.