The finalists for the thirteenth annual Caine Prize for African Literature, the ten-thousand-pound award (approximately sixteen thousand dollars) given for a short story written in English by an African writer, were announced last week. The shortlist of five was selected from 122 story entries by authors from fourteen African countries.
"This prize is more than just another award that will sprinkle fairy dust on a single, lucky writer every year—it is a force for change," says Bernardine Evaristo, this year's chair of judges, in a post on the Caine Prize blog. "I’m looking for stories about Africa that enlarge our concept of the continent beyond the familiar images that dominate the media: War-torn Africa, Starving Africa, Corrupt Africa - in short: The Tragic Continent. I’ve been banging on about this for years because while we are all aware of these negative realities, and some African writers have written great novels along these lines (as was necessary, crucial), isn’t it time now to move on? Or rather, for other kinds of African novels to be internationally celebrated."
Furthering the prize's goal to widen the global audience for new and innovative African fiction, the venues that originally published the shortlisted stories—two U.S. magazines, McSweeney's Quarterly Concern and Prick of the Spindle, among them—have released digital editions of the works. Below is the list of this year's finalists, with first lines from each story, and links to the pieces in full (in PDF format).
Rotimi Babatunde of Nigeria for "Bombay’s Republic," published in Mirabilia Review, out of Lagos, Nigeria
"The old jailhouse on the hilltop had remained uninhabited for many decades, through the construction of the town’s first grammar school and the beginning of house-to-house harassment from the affliction called sanitary inspectors, through the laying of the railway tracks by navvies who likewise succeeded in laying pregnancies in the bellies of several lovestruck girls, but fortunes changed for the building with the return of Colour Sergeant Bombay, the veteran who went off with the recruitment officers to Hitler’s War as a man and came back a spotted leopard."
Billy Kahora of Kenya for "Urban Zoning," published in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, out of San Francisco
"Outside on Tom Mboya Street, Kandle realized that he was truly in the Zone."
S. O. Kenani of Malawi for "Love on Trial" from the his debut collection, For Honour and Other Stories (Random House Struik, Cape Town, South Africa)
"Mr Lapani Kachingwe’s popularity has soared."
Melissa Tandiwe Myambo of Zimbabwe for "La Salle de Départ," published in Prick of the Spindle, out of New Orleans
"Like so many omens, she had missed its significance at the time."
Constance Myburgh of South Africa for "Hunter Emmanuel" from Jungle Jim, out of Cape Town, South Africa
"Hunter Emmanuel shouldered his chainsaw and looked up at the trees."
If you're craving a little analysis with your reading, Aaron Bady, a PhD candidate in African literature at University of California, along with some choice friends, will be blogging about the Caine Prize stories for the next few weeks at the New Inquiry. (Thanks to the Millions for this tip.)
The announcement of the winner will take place at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, England, on July 2. More details about this year's finalists and the past prize winners, who include Helon Habila, E. C. Osondu, and Binyavanga Wainaina, is avaialble on the Caine Prize website.