Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Nigerian and South African writers dominate Caine Prize 2015 shortlist

Ten years after Nigerian author Segun Afolabi won the 2005 Caine Prize for African Writing for his short story "Monday Morning", it was announced today that he is among the five writers shortlisted for this year's prize. The Prize is awarded for a short story of 3,000-10,000 words by an African writer published in English, whether in Africa or elsewhere.

The shortlist was announced by the chair of the Caine Prize judges, award-winning South African writer Zoë Wicomb, who described it as "an exciting crop of well-crafted stories." The winner of the £10,000 prize - now in its sixteenth year - will be announced at an award ceremony and dinner at the Weston Library, Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, on Monday 6 July. Each shortlisted candidate will receive a travel award and a prize of £500. 

Segun Afolabi ©Barney Jones


Afolabi is shortlisted for “The Folded Leaf” published by London-based Wasafiri magazine in 2014. Since winning the Caine Prize he has won further acclaim as a writer of both long and short fiction: his collection of short stories A Life Elsewherewas published in 2006 followed by the novel Goodbye Lucille in 2007.

Afolabi's fellow-Nigerian Elnathan John is shortlisted for “Flying” which appeared in 2014 in Per Contra, the international journal of the arts, literature and ideas, in 2014. John was first shortlisted for the Caine Prize in  2013, for “Bayan Layi".

Elnathan John

The strong record of Nigerian and South African writers in Caine Prize shortlists is maintained in the 2015, which includes two writers from each country. One of the South African writers is F. T. Kola, shortlisted for  “A Party for the Colonel” published by One Story magazine of Brooklyn, New York City in 2014.

 
F. T. Kola
The other South African, Masande Ntshanga, is shortlisted for “Space”, published in Twenty in 20 (Times Media, South Africa, 2014).

Masande Ntshanga ©Peg Skorpinski


The fifth shortlisted writer  is Namwali Serpell of Zambia, whose story “The Sack” was published in the anthology Africa39: New Writing from Africa South of the Sahara (Bloomsbury, London, 2014). Serpell was shortlisted for the Caine Pirze in 2010 for “Muzungu”.

Namwali Serpell

The judges for this year's Caine Prize are - in addition to the chair Zoë Wicomb - award-winning Indian novelist Neel Mukherjee; Zimbabwean novelist, short-story writer and 2004 Caine Prize winner Brian Chikwava; Assistant Professor of English at Georgetown Universit Cóilín Parsons, and Sudanese-British TV and radio journalist Zeinab Badawi.

Wicomb said:  "For all the variety of themes and approaches, the shortlist has in common a rootedness in socio-economic worlds that are pervaded with affect, as well as keen awareness of the ways in which the ethical is bound up with aesthetics. Unforgettable characters, drawn with insight and humour, inhabit works ranging from classical story structures to a haunting, enigmatic narrative that challenges the conventions of the genre."

Wicomb added, "Understatement and the unspoken prevail: hints of an orphan’s identity bring poignant understanding of his world; the reader is slowly and expertly guided to awareness of a narrator’s blindness; there is delicate allusion to homosexual love; a disfigured human body is encountered in relation to adolescent escapades; a nameless wife’s insecurities barely mask her understanding of injustice; and, we are given a flash of insight into dark passions that rise out of a surreal resistance culture."

 "Above all, these stories speak of the pleasure of reading fiction. It will be no easy task to settle on a winner."
The stories will be published in New Internationalist’s Caine Prize 2015 Anthology in July and through co-publishers across Africa, who receive a print ready PDF free of charge from New Internationalist. Last year's anthology is entitled  The Gonjon Pin and Other Stories: The Caine Prize for African Writing 2014.

In April 2015, twelve writers from eight African countries convened in Ghana as part of the Caine Prize’s writers’ workshop. During the workshop, the writers were expected to write short stories for the 2015 Caine Prize anthology. During the 13 days of the workshop the writers wrote, read and discussed work in progress under the mentorship of Leila Aboulela, the Sudanese author who won the inaugural Caine Prize in 2000, and has since become an internationally renowned author, and South African novelist and journalist Zukiswa Wanner.

The Caine Prize for African Writing is named in celebration of the late Sir Michael Caine, former Chairman of Booker plc, who was Chairman of the 'Africa 95' arts festival in Europe and Africa in 1995 and for nearly 25 years Chairman of the Booker Prize management committee.  
Susannah Tarbush, London

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