Now entering its twentieth year, the Caine Prize for African Writing is Africa’s leading literary prize, and is awarded to a short story by an African writer published in English, whether in Africa or elsewhere.
Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Caine Prize for African Writing—often referred to as the African Booker Prize—this collection showcases the winning short stories of African writers from the past 20 years and reflects the vast range of modern African experience. The writers include: Leila Aboulela (2000), Helon Habila (2001), Binyavanga Wainaina (2002), Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (2003), Brian Chikwava (2004), Segun Afolabi (2005), Mary Watson (2006), Monica Arac de Nyeko (2007), Henrietta Rose-Innes (2008), EC Osondu (2009), Olufemi Terry (2010) NoViolet Bulawayo (2011), Rotimi Babatunde (2012), Tope Folarin (2013), Okwiri Oduor (2014), Namwali Serpell (2015), Lidudumalingani (2016) Bashra al-Fadil (2017), Makena Onjerika (2018).
As Ben Okri said: “That’s what the Caine Prize is about: celebrating the genius of human diversity. The idea is to enrich the world through its greater contact with Africa, and to enrich Africa through its greater contact with the world.”
The Caine Prize, also known as the African Booker, was established 20 years ago and has been bestowed upon some of the most exemplary writers of Africa and of the African diaspora. This retrospective collection showcases each year's winner, each a short story that transcends geographical boundaries even as all are connected by the universal themes of human frailty and despair. Each tale is a jarring reminder of the events that mar the continent's historyatrocities, war, famine, and genocide. In the inaugural story, €˜The Museum,' Shadia, a Sudanese foreign student in Scotland, finds herself intrigued by a local, a fellow classmate. In the mesmerizing €˜Love Poems,' an imprisoned journalist sends pleas for help via poems he pens to help the warden woo a girlfriend. €˜In Waiting' is a heartbreaking story about a group of boys in a refugee camp eagerly awaiting adoption and deliverance from their grim surroundings. Many of the stories in this collection are deeply disturbing and brutal. However, each one, incredibly enough, illuminates both the banality and complexity of life and leaves an indelible impression.—Booklist
"Essential for students of contemporary world literature ' Best-of gathering of stories from the first two decades of the distinguished literary award devoted to African letters. In his introduction, Nigerian poet and novelist Ben Okri writes that the Caine Prize for African Writing €˜has turned out to be a regenerator of African literature,' a literature that experienced a boom in the immediate post-colonial era but is less well known today. The mostly young writers represented in the collection have, he continues, delivered €˜tales political, tales harrowing, tales humorous, tales told with vitality and passion and intelligence.' All that is abundantly evident in the editors' choices. The inaugural piece, by the Egyptian writer Leila Aboulela, mirrors her own life as an immigrant to Scotland. Shadia, a young woman, has fallen behind in a statistics class and asks a Scottish classmate for his notes: €˜Her ignorance and the impending exams were horrors she wanted to escape,' Aboulela writes, but at the price of striking up a conversation with a man who has a disagreeable ponytail and earring: €˜The whole of him was pathetic,' she sniffs, and even when the young man, barely comprehensible because of his accent, expresses an interest in Islam (€˜Ah wouldnae mind travelling to Mecca), she can find no bridge to him. Other pieces speak to the difficulty of crossing cultures, the Nigerian writer Rotimi Babatunde's €˜Bombay's Republic' being a sidelong case in point: A Nigerian soldier finds himself fighting the Japanese in Burma, save that the enemy has vanished because the British have put out the word that €˜the Africans are coming and that they eat people,' a calumny that demands a responseand finds one when he returns to his homeland. All the stories are excellent, but some are especially memorable, among them Henrietta Rose-Innes' €˜Poison,' the 2008 winner, which presciently speaks of an environmental apocalypse that finds the sun over Cape Town €˜a pink bleached disk, like the moon of a different planet.—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
Praise for the Caine Prize for African Writing
“Africa’s most important literary award.”
—International Herald Tribune
“Entertaining… Deserves to be widely read.”
—Sunday Independent, South Africa
“It provokes and challenges.”
—Harare News, Zimbabwe
“Dazzling and splendidly diverse”
—The Times (London)
“I believe that a literary prize for African writers… will show the creative spirit of Africa and her humanity more globally.”
—Archbishop Desmond Tutu