Monday, June 25, 2012

A Look at the Caine Prize Shortlist

The shortlisted stories had none of the poverty-porn that has plagued the Caine Prize for African Writing. Generally, the stories were interesting and varied, but can they be assumed to be the best coming from the continent? Well, that's a discussion that should be raged by those who have read wide. As it is, some are some are not. 

Melissa Myambo's story La Salle de Depart is about acculturation, family expectations, alienation, home - the typical emigre's story with a touch of ingenuity. A young man who has spent all his life abroad comes home to meet his sister who also wants him to take his son abroad, to provide him with the necessary step the boy needs to make it. However, this young man wants nothing of the familial entrapment associated with living abroad. 

Constance Myburgh's story Hunger Emmanuel is a whodunit of a kind. It uses the no-way-ahead type of detectives to investigate the death of a prostitute except that here the investigator is not a police officer but an ex-security officer. The story failed to work, for me, on several fronts.

Urban Zoning by Billy Kahora is about a drunk who is capable of controlling himself in his drunken state. He is somewhat cunning and an intellectual and when he missed several days of work and was about to be dismissed, he used that to his advantage.

Bombay's Republic by Rotimi Babatunde looks at the psychological and physical effects of war fought in an unknown land for an unknown cause. It also feeds into the numerous story of how the African realised he is colonised and needed independence after the second World War. However, it also shows how such fight for independence led to some freedom fighters becoming autocrats in the newly independent countries.

The story of the two Malawian gays whose sentencing became an international issue leading to the aid-cuts and subsequent strangulation of the Malawian economy under the presidency of Bingu wa Mutharika is the theme (and story) of S. O. Kenani's Love on Trial. The story replays the incident providing arguments why homosexuals should have their freedom respected and how homosexuality does not contradict any social norms or Christian values.

The Caine Prize will be announced on July 2, 2012. Personally, I think the award, if it is devoid of sensationalism, will be between Myambo's tale of the young emigre in La Salle de Depart and Rotimi Babatunde's Bombay's Republic. Between these two, I will choose Rotimi's story ahead of Myambo's.


  1. I followed you through all your posts on the Caine stories. You had some interesting thoughts on all the stories. I have ony read Bombay and Love on Trial. This year's stories seem completely different from the pasts interms of themes. I wish the best story wins.

  2. Well said. Just what i've been thinking. But we can only hope the judges think so too.

  3. I say these are food for thought.


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