The Caine Prize is the most prestigious award in African literature and can propel the careers of those who win it and those who are shortlisted. This year, the winner broke the mould and showed the judges are prepared to look beyond the usual parameters of literary talent to unearth Africa’s best writers. Here are some interesting facts on this year’s winner…..
For many, enjoying and exploring African literature is a matter of ordering books on Amazon and patiently waiting […]
Before we begin, an apology. We are all aware that there are far too many of these types of Internet articles, which command us, in various guises, to read or include certain African writers on our summer/autumn reading lists. The largely imaginary risk of non-compliance is exclusion from a tightly bound community of Africa’s literary elite endorsed by Western publishing houses. What is the objective of these lists? Is it to promote certain African authors who have been overlooked by the literary cognoscenti; both domestic and international?
The issue is this, when standing in a bookshop in a mall or idly browsing on Amazon before a holiday or after a tough day at work, where does one find the African equivalent of a John Grisham novel, i.e. an easily digestible thriller or mystery with no weightier theme than the pursuit of a villain and triumph of a hero or similar fare in the realm of romance or comedy?
Outside of the English speaking world, authors whose nationalities hail from Asia, the Middle East, Russia, continental Europe and South America will be widely published (and in some cases will write) in their native tongue for a local audience.
In 1975 Chinua Achebe wrote a speech entitled “The African Writer and the English Language”. It raised the vexed, emotionally fraught question of why most of our celebrated African literature is written and published in Sub-Saharan Africa only in the English language.