Zimbabwean woman takes home Caine Prize for powerful short story, “Hitting Budapest”

For our readers who might be unfamiliar with your work, can you briefly tell us what type of literary pieces you’re interested in writing, and what your award-winning story “Hitting Budapest” is about?

I’m interested in literature that engages with real social issues, and I love language for its beauty if done properly, as well as great storytelling for how it allows us to experience other worlds, so my pieces try to embody these things (…).

NoViolet Bulawayo, Author

NoViolet Bulawayo on Man Booker Prize 2013 Longlist

Zimbabwean writer NoViolet Bulawayo has been named to the Man Booker Prize longlist for her novel We Need New Names, her first novel which was released earlier this year to great reviews (including one by the New York Times’ Michiko Kakutani).

Bulawayo won the Caine in 2011 for her short story ’Hitting Budapest’ after completing an MFA at Cornell University. She is currently a Stegner Fellow at Stanford.

Learn more about We Need New Names via Ellah Allfrey for NPR

Like NoViolet’s Facebook page:

My lids slap open, and I see the same fog as before. The disembodied heads are swelling with unreleased joy. I know what I have to do.

“I can see!” I cry, and the loud cheers and sobbing are like new

“We must test his eyes, just to make sure! We are not done yet!” yells the prophet, and nervousness slowly creeps up my spine like a centipede. “We have to confirm so the doubters in here and the doubters in the world can know that God’s work is real!”

One of his attendants walks a few feet in front of me and holds up a few fingers. I squint and lean forward. I pray I get it right.

“Three!” I yell, and the crowd cheers more loudly than before.
“Four!” I scream, and the cheers themselves gain sentience. They last long after mouths have closed.
“One!” I cry, and the mouths open again, to give birth to new species of joy.


This is what I learned during my first visit to a Nigerian church: that a community is made up of truths and lies. Both must be cultivated in order for the community to survive.

—  Read Nigerian-American writer and Caine Prize 2013 winner Tope Folarin’s short story Miracle.

I read Okwiri Oduor’s short story that won the Caine Prize and have been mulling over this since:

Everyone has people that belong to them.” 
The old man laughed. “Only the food you have already eaten belongs to you.”

I sometimes think we are obsessed with belonging. With owning (people… things…). I truly wonder why. 

Newly named Caine Prize winner Namwali Serpell says that her “act of mutiny” — as she calls it — was premeditated. The literary prize, awarded annually to just one African writer for a short story written in English, comes with a hefty financial reward — just over $15,000. The Zambian writer says she’d dreamed up her mutiny days before the Monday ceremony: If she should win, she’d split that sum with her fellow nominees.

“It’s such a wonderful group of people, such a cohesive group of writers,” she says in an interview with NPR. “And it just felt weird and sad that we were now going to be pitted against each other in some kind of battle royal. I think, for the writers obviously, literature’s not a competitive sport.”

Caine Prize Winner: Literature Is Not A Competitive Sport

Image: Namwali Serpell, this year’s winner of the Caine Prize. (Courtesy of the Caine Prize for African Writing)

If you have already read Chinua Achebe...

…or would like to know more about African literature, this list has a few of the best writers to come from the continent of Africa: 

Wizard of the Crow - Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o (Kenya) (Link to Catalog)

Humorous political magical realist fiction. The individual stories of characters both powerful and ordinary create a kaleidoscopic portrait of postcolonial Africa in the twentieth century, in a novel set in the Free Republic of Aburiria.  At the top, a grandiose Ruler with “the power to declare any month in the year the seventh month” and his sycophantic cabinet plan to climb to heaven with a modern-day Tower of Babel funded by the Global Bank; beneath them, a cabal of venal officials and opportunistic businessmen jockey for a piece of the pie; at the bottom are the unemployed masses who wait in endless lines behind every help-wanted sign. (Reviews)

Beethoven was one-sixteenth black: and other stories - Nadine Gordimer (South Africa) (Link to Catalog)

Short Stories. Thought Provoking and stylistically complex. A collection of short fiction addresses issues of race, identity, and politics, in the title story about an anti-apartheid activist and academic who pursues questions of his own racial identity, and thirteen other stories. (Reviews)

News from Home : Stories - Sefi Atta (Nigeria) (Link to Catalog)

Psychological Fiction. In the irreverent title story, a young Nigerian gets a job as a nanny for a New Jersey family; she sneers at their “African” decor, but what dazzles her is the mall (“scented toilet paper!”). When Americans ask her where she’s from, she ends up saying “Africa”; they don’t know Nigeria. As gentle as it is horrifying, “Last Trip” is about a courier from Lagos who boards a plane for London with a half-million dollars’ worth of heroin in her stomach; her commission will help care for her disabled son. In “Twilight Trek,” illegals are on a modern biblical exodus across the blazing Sahara desert; the wry narrator is desperate (“Death I could live with”), even as he confronts horrific global prejudice (“foreign embassies don’t grant Africans like us visas”).

Hitting Budapest - Noviolet Bulawayo (Zimbabwe) (Link to Story)

Short Story. Winner of the 2011 Caine Prize for African Writing.
Fourteenth Caine Prize shortlist announced

The shortlist for the 2013 Caine Prize for African Writing has been announced today (Wednesday 15 May) – and among the five stories chosen are an unprecedented four Nigerian entries.

The Chair of judges, art historian and broadcaster, Gus Casely-Hayford said, “The shortlist was selected from 96 entries from 16 African countries. They are all outstanding African stories that were drawn from an extraordinary body of high quality submissions.”

 Gus described the shortlist saying, “The five contrasting titles interrogate aspects of things that we might feel we know of Africa – violence, religion, corruption, family, community – but these are subjects that are deconstructed and beautifully remade. These are challenging, arresting, provocative stories of a continent and its descendants captured at a time of burgeoning change.”

 The winner of the £10,000 prize is to be announced at a celebratory dinner at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, on Monday 8 July.

 The 2013 shortlist comprises:

 As always the stories will be available to read online on our website and will be published with the 2013 workshop stories in our forthcoming anthology A Memory This Size in July 2013 by New Internationalist and seven co-publishers in Africa.

Alongside Gus on the panel of judges this year are award-winning Nigerian-born artist, Sokari Douglas Camp; author, columnist and Lord Northcliffe Emeritus Professor at UCL, John Sutherland; Assistant Professor at Georgetown University, Nathan Hensley and the winner of the Caine Prize in its inaugural year, Leila Aboulela. Once again, the winner of the £10,000 Caine Prize will be given the opportunity of taking up a month’s residence at Georgetown University, as a Writer-in-Residence at the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice. The award will cover all travel and living expenses. The winner will also be invited to take part in the Open Book Festival in Cape Town in September 2013.

Last year the Caine Prize was won by Nigerian writer Rotimi Babatunde. He has subsequently co-authored a play ‘Feast’ for the Young Vic and the Royal Court theatres in London.

 View this press release as a PDF here…

 Dates for the Diary

 This year the shortlisted writers will be reading from their work at the Royal Over-Seas League on Thursday, 4 July at 7pm and at the Southbank Centre, on Sunday, 7 July at 6.30pm. On Friday, 5 July at 2-5pm and Saturday, 6 July at 5pm the shortlisted writers will also take part in the Africa Writes Festival at The British Library, organised by ASAUK and the Royal African Society.
doreen baingana | 'our stories aren't all tragedies'


External image

“After my talk in Red Wing, one woman asked me about Idi Amin, whose eating habits I am expected to have insider information about. Another asked about female circumcision in Uganda. I do not mean to fault this group in particular or Americans in general. Even here in cosmopolitan London last July, at events for the Caine Prize for African Writing, students and others posed questions within the same framework, using the word "postcolonial” like it was going out of style. I wish. Is there any other way we can view and talk about the multiplicities of the African experience? We need to, desperately.“

This is an oft-repeated call that nonetheless bears repeating. Although Baingana tasks the African writer with countering the limitations of these ideas about Africa, her writing is so far from a straightforward rebuttal of the AFRICA = ;-((( narratives.

At her best she crystallises middle-class ennui; the many contradictions of Christianity; isolation, atomization and the desire to be numb. My favourite stories trace the difficulty of imagining the overhaul of the worlds we inhabit. She gives us characters who are drifting along in roles often so constricting they draw blood, but who stop short of imagining alternatives because the risk of imagination and speech is either inconceivable or just overwhelming. Her work is really doing it for me right now.

She’s the author of Tropical Fish: Stories out of Entebbe - I posted the covers of the SA editions by Mustafa Maluka a while back - and here’s an extract from her brilliant story ‘Anointed’.

Image via

Today in Book News: Pakistani writer Jamil Ahmad, who published his debut novel, The Wandering Falcon, when he was 79, has died “after a long illness,” his publisher said. He was 83. Ahmad spent decades as a civil servant in the country’s tribal northwest, experiences he drew upon for the book, which was shortlisted for the 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize. He wrote the novel in the 1970s, but in his words, it “hibernated” for 40 years before finding a publisher.Ahmad said he wrote it because “I want people to understand that tribes are not savage." 

Also today, Kenyan author Okwiri Oduor has won the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing with her story ”My Father’s Head.“ And scandal is afoot in the small (yet mighty) poetry community of North Carolina. Gov. Pat McCrory appointed a self-published state employee as the new poet laureate, prompting significant pushback from the state’s literary community. 

Read more here.
The Sack
Namwali Serpell's Caine Prize-winning short story

Could we interest you in a collection of short stories from Africa? 

Of course we can! And they are all here, on our website (and on the great website for the Caine Prize for African Writing itself), saluting great new writing from the continent. 

Namwali Serpell, the 2015 Caine Prize winner, and Masanda Ntshanga and Elnathan John, two finalists this year, joined us to discuss their work, African writing today and how they came to write their stories.

(The 2015 Caine Prize For African Writing, July 10, 2015)

Zimbabwean author NoViolet Bulawayo (pictured) has won major African literary award the Caine prize for her short story about a starving gang of children from a shanty town.

Bulawayo’s Hitting Budapest tells the story of six children in Zimbabwe, one of them pregnant with her grandfather’s baby, and the journey they make to steal guavas in a rich area. Chair of the Caine prize’s judges, the Libyan novelist Hisham Matar, said the story’s language “crackles”. (click here for more; click image for source).

Take no prisoners.
—  – 2013 Caine Prize Winner, Tope Folarin on his advice to the young writers in our Experimental Fiction class.  Folarin struggled for several years before he published his first short story, Miracle, which landed the prestigious prize for African Literature.  I’m taking his advice of “taking no prisoners” – by which he implies write by any means necessary – to heart.  
Images from the Caine Prize Workshop 2015 in Ghana

Images from the Caine Prize Workshop 2015 in Ghana

External image

Caine Prize workshop 2015 participants

The Caine Prize workshop gives aspiring writers two weeks to create and finish a story under the guidance of experiences writers and occurs in a different African country every year. This year the workshop was in Elmina, Ghana in April and was facilitated by first Caine Prize winner Leila Aboulela and Zukiswa Wanner. Elmina is famous as a slave port from the…

View On WordPress

ICYMI: our new weekly round-up of literary goings-on! 

Not the Booker Prize: giving power to readers is absolutely what we’re about, with our reading groups and other initiatives, so we’re thrilled to see ‘probably the world’s most democratic literary prize’ back for another year. You’ve got until 27th July to get your nominations in, and three of our wonderful titles are eligible - Double Negative and The Restless Supermarket by Ivan Vladislavic, and A Map of Tulsa by Benjamin Lytal. So if you’ve read them and loved them, don’t keep it yourself - tell the (Guardian-reading) world about it! 

Sophie Lewis in Asymptote Journal: the latest issue from asymptotejournal really is an embarrassment of riches, and especially for us - not only do they have this fab essay by Daniel Hahn about translating our next title, Nowhere People, there’s also this excerpt from Violette Leduc’s Therese and Isabelle, translated from the French by our very own editor-at-large Sophie Lewis! Having beautiful baby Xul (who you can read all about in our latest newsletter - sign up here!) clearly hasn’t slowed Sophie down :-) 

External image

Okwiri Oduor wins the Caine Prize: now in its fifteenth year, the 2014 Caine Prize for African Writing was awarded to Kenyan Okwiri Oduor, whose winning story 'My Father’s Head’ was described by the judges as “Joycean in its reach”. You can read the story in full here, and listen to Okwiri and judge Jackie Kay discussing the win on bbcradio4 Front Row. For an in-depth look at this year’s five shortlisted entries we recommend Ainehi Edoro’s Brittle Paper blog - indispensable for keeping your finger on the pulse of the African literary scene.   

Thriving Indie Publishers - in praise of Text: over on the Foyles blog, expat Aussie Marion Rankine spreads some much-deserved love for the press that’s won Australia’s Small Publisher of the Year Award for the past three years running(!!) - Text Publishing. Their vibrant yellow classics (bah, humbug, gloomy Penguins) are currently brightening up the shiny new Charing Cross branch of Foyles, and we wholeheartedly recommend you try them out. Marion’s top three are a great place to start, and our social media guru @londonkoreanist is a fan of Elizabeth Harrower’s The Watch Tower. Also, though she read the latest Classic, Janet Frame’s Owls Do Cry, in a second-hand ed from another publisher, it was so stunningly good the fact that it ever went out of print is simply mind-boggling, and speaks volumes re: the indispensable work that publishers like Text are doing. Up the Aussies! 

External image

RIP Nadine Gordimer: most of you will have heard by now of the death of Nadine Gordimer, Nobel laureate and anti-apartheid activist. This piece by Margaret Atwood in guardian is a moving introduction to Gordimer’s life and work, for those of you who aren’t already familiar, while openculture is collecting stories available for free online here

“And in Kiswahili, that’s the language of a kind of love, because we don’t have a colonial relationship with Kiswahili.” - Binyavanga Wainaina

This interview caused some earrings-off/gimmie some Vaseline brawls on the interweb, although the new Queen of Caine, NoViolet Bulawayo, engaged one of Wainaina’s points with with panache. Wainaina is hilarious, warm, frank and flippant: ’I was just trying to have sex in South Africa at eighteen too…as was everybody who was eighteen in South Africa. They were not sitting down beating their chests about the fall of apartheid’ and the interview opens out into a discussion to include former Caine winner Brian Chikwava (loveliest smile in African literature?) and Lizzy Attree, academic and new Caine prize administrator. Click through to listen