Two Nigerians have been named among five finalists for the 2015 edition of the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing.
The Caine Prize seeks to reward the best short stories published in English in Africa and by Africans. The prize is named after the late Chairman of Booker Plc, Michael Caine.
“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,” said the Chair of judges, Zoë Wicomb, in a statement announcing the shortlist.
“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.
“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 two Nigerians are winner of the 2005 edition of the prize, Segun Afolabi, who was shortlisted for The Folded Leaf and a 2013 finalist, Elnathan John, who was shortlisted for Flying.
Other writers shortlisted for the prize are South African, F.T Kola, for A Party for the Colonel; South African, Masande Ntshanga, for Space and Zambian, Namwali Serpell for The Sack.
The shortlisting of the two Nigerian is a welcome development to many Nigerian writers after no Nigerian was shortlisted in the 2014 edition despite previously dominating the prize.
Mr. Afolabi was born in Kaduna but grew up in Canada, the Congo, Indonesia, Germany and Hong Kong. He won the 2005 edition with Monday Morning. His first novel, Goodbye Lucille, was published in 2007 and won the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award in the UK.
Mr. John is a full time writer and best known for his political satire which he publishes on his blog. He is also very popular on Twitter. He was a finalist in the 2013 edition for Bayan Layi. Mr John’s writing has been published in Per Contra, ZAM Magazine, Hazlitt, Evergreen Review, and Chimurenga’s The Chronic. His first novel will be released in October by Cassava Republic.
Previous Nigeria winners of the prize are: Helon Habila (2001), Segun Afolabi (2005), E.C. Osondu (2009), Rotimi Babatunde (2012) and Tope Folarin (2013).
Each shortlisted writer receives £500 and the winner of the £10,000 prize will be announced at an award ceremony and dinner at the Weston Library, Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, on Monday 6 July.