The shortlist for the 2014 Caine Prize for African Writing has been announced.

Yesterday, Nigerian Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, the first African to be awarded this title, announced the shortlist for this year’s Caine Prize for African Writing during the opening ceremony of UNESCO’s Port Harcourt World Book Capital festival in Nigeria.

The winner of the prestigious and highly coveted award with a £10,000 prize will be announced at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, on Monday 14 July.

To commemorate fifteen years of the Caine Prize this year, £500 will be awarded to each shortlisted writer.

Kenya leads the pack this year with two out of five shortlisted authors. Last year’s award was won by Nigerian-American writer Tope Folarin, and in 2012 it was won by fellow Nigerian Rotimi Babatunde. Previous winners also include Zimbabwe’s NoViolet Bulawayo (2011) and Kenya’s Binyavanga Wainaina (2002).

Here are this year’s nominees:

Phosphorescence by Diane Awerbuck (South Africa), published in Cabin Fever (Umuzi, Cape Town, 2011)

Chicken by Efemia Chela (Ghana/Zambia), published in Feast, Famine and Potluck (Short Story Day Africa, South Africa, 2013)

The Intervention by Tendai Huchu (Zimbabwe), published in Open Road Review, issue 7 (New Delhi, 2013)

The Gorilla’s Apprentice by Billy Kahora (Kenya), published in Granta (London, 2010)

My Father’s Head by Okwiri Oduor (Kenya), published in Feast, Famine and Potluck (Short Story Day Africa, South Africa, 2013).

Read a short biography of the five shortlisted writers here.

Going to take the time to congratulate a girl I went to high school with who’s a fantastic writer and all-round hilarious and witty person - congrats Efemia! Your struggles are all worth it and now you’ll probably have your own Wikipedia page.

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:

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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.

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. 

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.
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. 


“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’.

Efemia Chela: Half Ghanaian, Half Zambian Plus a Dash of Storytelling!

Efemia Chela: Half Ghanaian, Half Zambian Plus a Dash of Storytelling!

Source: Cace Africa

Efema Chela’s diverse genealogy has worked well for her as she journeys through the world of literati. Born November 16, 1991 in Chikankata, Zambia, she grew up in England, Ghana, Botswana and South Africa, courtesy of parents’ whose work  made relocation a constant occurrence. The half Ghanaian, half Zambian graduate of French, Classical Civilisations and Politics from Rhodes…

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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).

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.

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.  
Caine Prize 2015 deadline is Saturday 31st January

Caine Prize 2015 deadline is Saturday 31st January

Another chance for our Billy Kahora

We all know the benefits of the Caine Prize to you as an African writer. The people who have been short listed and who have won it in the last fifteen years have had it good. Real good. Some of these names are now the biggest names in the African writing game so being one of them can’t hurt your writing career.

To all those who want to be in it, you can’t win…

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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 :-) 

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! 

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

Okwiri Oduor wins 2014 Caine Prize for African writing

Kenyan author Okwiri Oduor has won the 2014 Caine Prize for African Writing  for her short story My Father’s Head .

Described as “an uplifting story about mourning,” Nairobi-born Oduor’s 2013 work begins with the narrator’s attempts to remember what her father’s face looked like as she struggles to cope with his loss, and follows her as she finds the courage to remember.

“Okwiri Oduor is a writer we are all really excited to have discovered,” said Scottish author and chief judge Jackie Kay, as the prize was presented at the Bodleian Library in Oxford tonight. “My Father’s Head’ is an uplifting story about mourning – Joycean in its reach. She exercises an extraordinary amount of control and yet the story is subtle, tender and moving. It is a story you want to return to the minute you finish it.”

Now in its fifteenth year, the annual £10,000 award celebrates short stories written by African authors published in English.

Read More

An Interview with Rotimi Babatunde, 2012 Caine Prize Winner

Rotimi Babatunde, Chair of the Nigerian PEN Center’s Writers for Peace Committee, recently won the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing for his story “Bombay’s Republic”The Prize was founded in 2000 to celebrate the richness and diversity of African writing in English.

“Bombay’s Republic” tells the story of an African soldier of the “Forgotten Army” who served on the Burma front during the Second World War before returning home as a decorated veteran. At its height, the “Forgotten Army” had approximately a million soldiers, most of whom were drawn from British colonies in Africa and Asia.  We asked Babatunde to share his journey as a writer and inspirations for “Bombay’s Republic.”

PEN International: What was the inspiration for your story, “Bombay’s Republic”?

Babatunde: The lore of the Burma veterans which endures in the Nigerian folk consciousness. My first memorable encounter with it occurred in childhood, when I stumbled on my older siblings discussing an anecdote relating to a particular veteran. On return from the war, some schoolchildren asked him to tell them about the Black Hole of Calcutta since he had been to Asia. But the veteran didn’t visit Calcutta while abroad and he did not want to appear ignorant to the students. As a way out of his quandary, he simply literalized the phrase, replying that the Black Hole of Calcutta is the name of a bottomless, pitch-dark hole which he saw with his very eyes in Burma.

Read the full interview here.

Published with permission from PEN International