Alert! Karen Jayes, a freelance writer and journalism lecturer at Cape Town’s City Varsity, has won the inaugural 2009 PEN/Studzinski Literary Award for her short story, “Where he will leave his shoes”.
The announcement was made by Shaun Johnson of SA PEN and the new publishing house Johnson and King James at the Franschhoek Literary Festival on Friday evening. Johnson was flanked by SA PEN chairman Anthony Fleisher and judging committee member Justin Fox, as well as his publishing partners Alistair King and James Barty.
Jayes’ story was picked out of 34 finalists by Nobel laureate JM Coetzee. She wins £5 000. Coetzee awarded second prize (£3 000) to Andrew Salomon, for “A visit to Dr Mamba” and declared that the third prize of £2 000 should be split between Ceridwen Dovey and Nadia Davids, for their respective stories, “Survival mechanisms” and “The visit”.
Coetzee also singled out four writers for honorable mentions: NoViolet Mkha Bulawayo, Naomi Nkealah, Isabella Morris and Irene McCartney.
All the stories of the 34 finalists have been included in New Writing from Africa 2009, the first PEN/Studzinski anthology, published by Johnson & King James as the imprint’s first book. It was unveiled along with the winners on the night.
Here’s the official SA PEN press release:
The South African Centre of International PEN (SA PEN) is delighted to announce the winners of the first PEN/Studzinski Literary Award for original short stories in English by African authors.
Nobel Laureate J M Coetzee has selected the short story Where he will leave his shoes by Karen Jayes as the winner of the first prize. Coetzee describes it as “a story that breathes new life into the tired topos of the house-servant’s perspective on the master. Its treatment of complex, not fully conscious feelings is compelling.” The author, Karen Jayes, works as a freelance writer and lecturer in Cape Town. She says of Where he will leave his shoes: “I try to write in voices that aren’t often heard… This particular voice humbled me. I would like for others also to hear his sadness, his hope – and his warning.”
Andrew Salomon, an archeologist living in Cape Town, has been awarded the second prize for A visit to Dr Mamba, a short story based on a leaflet promising cures for a range of intriguing dilemmas. Coetzee described Salomon’s story as “sly, straight-faced humour … furthered by clean, stripped down narration.”
The third prize is shared between The visit by Nadia Davids, “an admirably structured story exploring some of the enduring damage of apartheid,” according to Coetzee, and Survival mechanisms by Ceridwen Dovey, “which calls on poetic resources to explore white ambivalence about South Africa.” Nadia Davids, an award-winning South African writer and theatre director is currently resident in New York. Ceridwen Dovey, a South African anthropologist, documentary film maker and prize-winning novelist also lives in the United States.
John Studzinski, a global investment banker and philanthropist, has generously donated the prize money of £5 000 for the winner, £3 000 for the second prize and £2 000 for the third prize.
J M Coetzee has also given honorable mentions to the following writers and stories selected as finalists for the award:
NoViolet Mkha Bulawayo – Snapshots
Naomi Nkealah – In the name of peace
Isabella Morris – Bluette
Irene McCartney – Pauline’s ghost
The PEN/Studzinski Literary Award has replaced the HSBC/SA PEN Literary Award and encourages new creative writing in Africa. It is open to all citizens of African countries writing in English, and offers talented writers on the continent an exciting opportunity to develop or launch a literary career.
Commenting on the award, Shaun Johnson, Chairman of the SA PEN Editorial Board said: “At SA PEN we took the decision to open up the competition to all of Africa, to see what would happen. We decided to lift all age restrictions, and to see what would happen. We wanted to take a wide-angled literary snapshot of our continent, and to help get published what writers across Africa are thinking about and writing about as the first decade of the 21st Century draws to a close. It has been a privilege to help make this come about, and my congratulations to everyone who entered.”
The 2009 PEN/Studzinski award attracted an unprecedented 827 entries, 625 of which met with the rules of entry. A team of 38 readers undertook 1446 readings under strict rules of author anonymity to shortlist 195 stories, and 34 stories were chosen as finalists by the PEN Editorial Board comprising Shaun Johnson, Anthony Fleischer, Justin Fox, Harry Garuba, Alastair King and Mary Watson. The finalists’ stories will be published in an anthology, New Writing from Africa 2009, due for release shortly.
The majority (672) of entries were received from South African authors. Of the 155 non-South African authors, the majority (76) came from Nigeria, while entries were also received from Algeria, Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Morocco, Swaziland, Uganda and Zimbabwe. With no age limit, the award attracted entries from all ages ranging from 10 (the youngest entrant) to 101 (the oldest). The 30 – 40 age group was the most prolific and 25 of the 34 finalist stories were written by women.
Many of the 34 finalists attended the event. Here’s a gallery of those who witnessed Jayes’ win: