Nigerians Dominate 2013 Caine Prize Shortlist

18 May 2013

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Four out of the five writers shortlisted for the 2013 Caine Prize for African fiction are Nigerians. They are Chinelo Okparanta, for “America” from Granta, Issue 118 (London, 2012); Elnathan John for “Bayan Layi” from Per Contra, Issue 25 (USA, 2012); Tope Folarin for “Miracle” from Transition, Issue 109 (Bloomington, 2012); and Abubakar Adam Ibrahim for “The Whispering Trees” from “The Whispering Trees”, published by Parrésia Publishers (Lagos, 2012).

The fifth writer is Pede Hollist from Sierra Leone for “Foreign Aid” from Journal of Progressive Human Services, Vol. 23.3 (Philadelphia, 2012).

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.”

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.

The winner of the £10,000 prize is to be announced at a celebratory dinner at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, on Monday the 8th of July.
The first Nigerian to win the Caine Prize is the popular multiple awards winning novelist Helon Habila in 2001. Previous shortlisted Nigerian writers include the famous Nigerian authors Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in 2002; Chika Unigwe in 2004, was also shortlisted in 2006 for the Dutch equivalent of the Orange Prize for her novel translated into Dutch, “de fenicks”. She won the 2003 BBC Short Story Competition for her story “Borrowed Smile”, a Commonwealth Short Story Award for “Weathered Smiles” and a Flemish literary prize for “De Smaak van Sneeuw”. Her second novel, On Black Sisters’ Street, first published in Dutch, was published in Chika’s own English version by Jonathan Cape in 2009 and Random House in 2011 won the 2012 Nigeria Prize for Literature endowed by the Nigeria LNG Limited. Her new novel is Night Dancer published in June 2012 by Jonathan Cape; Ike Okonta in 2005; Sefi Atta in 2006, is famous for her Everything Good Will Come and Swallow and the short story collection News From Home.  Winner of the PEN International 2004/5 David T.K. Wong Prize, she also won the first Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa in 2006 for Everything Good Will Come, and the final NOMA Award for Publishing in Africa in 2009 for Lawless and other stories, now published as “News From Home”.

Her publishers include Interlink Books in the USA, AAA Press in Nigeria and Jacana Media in South Africa; Uwem Akpan in 2007 and his book Say You’re One of Them (Oprah’s Book Club) published by Little Brown won the Best First Book award in the Africa region of the Commonwealth Literature Prize and was critically acclaimed by Oprah Winfrey on Oprah’s Book Club in 2009 prompting it to reach the top of the New York Times bestseller list; Ada Udechukwu in 2007 and Uzor Maxim Uzoatu in 2008.

WHO DOES GOD SAY YOU ARE?:  Never Too Late to Write
Defying teachers who described her as clumsy and unintelligent; old age; the pressure of being housewife; and 26 rejections, Madeleine L’Engle Camp wrote herself into being who God said she was. This story, written with Internet sources, shows that there is no excuse for not writing if you are gifted to do so.
Even after her death in 2007, Madeleine reigns. Last year, Amazon US announced that The Hunger Games had outsold Harry Potter as its all time bestselling series—not just in the young adult category. Both Hunger and Harry feature teenagers who battle evil and must make decisions that effect the lives of others.

Madeleine’s defiance of the daunting odds she faced paid off on the completion of “A Wrinkle in Time” in early 1960, at age 42.  But it was not even immediate. After those twenty-six rejections, her agent returned the manuscript and Madeleine put it in a drawer.
She said, “I received many rejection letters and I used to put the kids to bed and take my dogs and walk them down the long dirt road in front of my house and cry my eyes out. Yet I couldn’t stop writing and I kept on writing. I had no choice. I might never get published, but I had to keep writing”.

After a decade in the country, the family returned to New York so Hugh could revive his acting career (he eventually became a well-known soap opera star). Madeleine found a job teaching grade school.
At Christmas, Madeleine threw a tea party for her mother. One of the guests knew John C. Farrar of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and arranged for Madeleine to meet him. Although his company didn’t accept children’s books at the time, Farrar loved the novel and ultimately published it.

Wrinkle won the 1963 Newbery Medal, awarded annually by the American Library Association for the most distinguished American children’s book.
Madeleine was born in New York City on November 29, 1918, and named after her great-grandmother, Madeleine L’Engle, otherwise known as Mado.  Madeleine wrote her first story at age five and began keeping a journal at age eight. These early literary attempts did not translate into academic success at the New York City private school where she was enrolled. A shy, clumsy child, she was branded as stupid by some of her teachers. Unable to please them, she retreated into her own world of books and writing. Her parents often disagreed about how to raise her, and as a result she attended a number of boarding schools and had many governesses. The L’Engles traveled frequently.

At one point, the family moved to a chateau near Chamonix in the French Alps, in what Madeleine described as the hope that the cleaner air would be easier on her father’s lungs. Madeleine was sent to a boarding school in Switzerland. However, in 1933, Madeleine’s grandmother fell ill, and they moved near Jacksonville, Florida to be close to her. Madeleine attended another boarding school, Ashley Hall, in Charleston, South Carolina. When her father died in 1935, Madeleine arrived home too late to say goodbye.
Madeleine attended Smith College from 1937 to 1941. After graduating cum laude from Smith, she moved to an apartment in New York City. In 1942, she met actor Hugh Franklin when she appeared in the play The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov. Madeleine married Franklin on January 26, 1946, the year after the publication of her first novel, The Small Rain. (Later she wrote of their meeting and marriage, “We met in The Cherry Orchard and were married in The Joyous Season.”) The couple’s first daughter, Josephine, was born in 1947.

The family moved to a 200-year-old farmhouse called Crosswicks in Goshen, Connecticut in 1952. To replace Franklin’s lost acting income, they purchased and operated a small general store, while Madeleine continued with her writing. In 1959 the family returned to New York City so that Hugh could resume his acting career. The move was immediately preceded by a ten-week cross-country camping trip, during which Madeleine first had the idea for her most famous novel, A Wrinkle in Time. Madeleine completed the book by 1960, but more than two dozen publishers rejected the story before Farrar, Straus and Giroux finally published it in 1962
The book tells the story of Meg Murry, an imaginative and rebellious teenager, whose father goes missing while working on a government project called the tesseract (something like a wormhole). Meg, her little brother, and a neighbour must pass through a time tunnel to battle the alien totalitarian regime that has kidnapped their father.

In the course of conversation, Mrs Whatsit casually mentions there is such a thing as a tesseract, which causes Mrs. Murry to almost faint. The next morning, Meg discovers the term refers to a scientific concept her father was working on before his mysterious disappearance. The following afternoon, Meg and Charles Wallace encounter Meg’s schoolmate, Calvin O’Keefe, a high-school junior who, although he is a “big man on campus”, considers himself a misfit as well. They then go to visit an old haunted house near town which Charles Wallace already knows is the home of Mrs Whatsit. There they encounter a companion of Mrs Whatsit, the equally strange Mrs Who. She promises that she and her friends will help Meg find and rescue her father. A budding love interest develops between Meg and Calvin. In the evening, Charles Wallace declares it is time for them to go on their mission to save their father. This is accompanied by the appearance of the third member of the “Mrs W’s”, Mrs Which, who appears to materialize out of nothing.

The children then travel to the dark planet of Camazotz which is entirely dominated by the Black Thing. Meg’s father is trapped there. They find that all the inhabitants behave in a mechanistic way and seem to be all under the control of a single mind. At the planet’s central headquarters (described as CENTRAL Central Intelligence) they discover a red-eyed man with telepathic abilities who can cast a hypnotic spell over their minds. He claims to know the whereabouts of their father.
Calvin and the Murrys are discovered by the planet’s inhabitants: large, sightless “beasts” with tentacles and four arms who prove both wise and gentle. Meg’s paralysis is cured under the care of one inhabitant, whom Meg nicknames “Aunt Beast”.

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