Yes, it’s that time of year again! In about two weeks, the 2016 Caine Prize winner will be announced!
For those who are not familiar, the Caine Prize for African Writing, which was first awarded in 2000 is an award “open to writers from anywhere in Africa for work published in English. Its focus is on the short story, reflecting the contemporary development of the African story-telling tradition” (source).
Some notable winners of the Caine Prize include (click on links to my reviews):
- Leila Aboulela, from Sudan (2000) – author of novels Minaret, The Translator, Lyrics Alley among other works.
- Binyavanga Wainaina, from Kenya (2002) – founding editor of Kwani?, author of memoir One Day I Will Write About This Place and the essay How To Write About Africa found in various literary magazines.
- Yvonne A. Owuor, from Kenya (2003) – author of the novel, Dust.
- E.C Osondu, from Nigeria (2009) – author of the novel, Voice of America: stories.
- NoViolet Bulawayo, from Zimbabwe (2011) – author of the novel, We Need New Names.
Previously shortlisted authors include: Mia Couto from Mozambique (2001), Chimamanda Adichie from Nigeria (2002), Laila Lalami from Morocco (2006), Chinelo Okparanta from Nigeria (2013), Tendai Huchu from Zimbabwe (2014), Elnathan John from Nigeria (2013 & 2015), among others!
The Caine Prize and its shortlisted stories play a huge role in the authors I read from the continent. Many Caine Prize winners and shortlisted writers have found great success and I’ve reviewed a good number of these writers’ works here on African Book Addict!
This year, the Caine Prize shortlist comprises of five talented young writers with unique short stories (top left to bottom right):
(Images via caineprize.com ; collage created by African Book Addict!)
Tope Folarin (Nigeria) – Read his short story: Genesis
Bongani Kona (Zimbabwe) – Read his short story: At Your Requiem
Abdul Adan (Somalia/Kenya) – Read his short story: The Lifebloom Gift
Lidudumalingani (South Africa) – Read his short story: Memories We Lost
Lesley Nneka Arimah (Nigeria) – Read her short story: What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky
I was surprised to see Tope Folarin shortlisted AGAIN, since he won the Caine Prize back in 2013 for his moving story – Miracle. Why does the Caine Prize always shortlist past shortlistees and winners? Every year, many writers submit stories in hopes of being shortlisted – they couldn’t give someone else a chance to compete to win?
Anyways, Folarin’s Genesis reminded me of his Africa39 story, New Mom. Genesis is a semi-autobiographical story on Folarin’s family – more specifically on his mother’s mental illness and how it affected him as a child. Genesis made me uncomfortable. I felt stressed reading the story as Folarin freely shares with the world his mother’s plight. The story is an easy read and quite engrossing which I expected, since Folarin’s strength is in his ability to write moving stories – as seen in Miracle. I appreciate Folarin shedding light on mental illness and depression – topics we Africans usually shy away from. But for some reason, I’m not okay with his mother’s illness and antics being shared with the world (MY opinion!). If he wins the Caine Prize again, I anticipate some uproar from readers and critics.
Lesley Nneka Arimah’s story, What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky was an engaging story. This is a story about Nneoma who is a Mathematician that can detect grief and sadness from fellow Nigerians and has the power to heal them. She seems to be searching to find the next genius mathematician to train with healing powers as well. The ending had me a bit confused… But this was an enjoyable read. I’m not a big fan of science fiction but I loved the afrofuturism vibes I got from this story!
Abdul Adan’s story The Lifebloom Gift is my favorite! This story is sooo bizarre. The Lifebloom Gift is a story about a TSA officer who has an encounter with Ted Lifebloom – a 30 year old man who seems to thrive off touching moles on other peoples’ bodies. Once Ted Lifebloom touches another person’s mole, the person he’s touching is transported into a land of “green pastures where they hear the song of birds and sneezes of horses, smell the fur of dogs, feel a twitch in one of their nipples which, in turn, transforms into a brown lactating nipple…” or in short, the person understands the meaning of love (whaaat?!). The TSA officer later conducts a case study on Ted Lifebloom and goes on an adventure to find other Lifebloomers, by accessing moles on the backs of potential Lifebloomers. The story starts off a bit confusing, as it’s hard to picture what Abdul Adan is describing. But as the story unfolds, it all starts to make sense even though its still very strange. It’s actually hard to explain this story. But it was hilarious to read and oh so weird! If you don’t read any of these stories at all, at least read The Lifebloom Gift! It’s truly an original and creative story. I hope Abdul Adan wins the 2016 Caine Prize!
Which story is your favorite? Who do you think will win the Caine Prize this year?
The winner will be announced on the 4th of July at the Weston Library, Oxford, England. Good luck to all the shortlisted candidates!