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Shortlists for the 2010 Commonwealth Writers' Prize – Africa Region

TrespassThe Double CrownThe Thing Around Your NeckEyoTsamma SeasonRefugeKings of the Water

I Do Not Come to You by ChanceThe Shape of HimThe Shadow of a SmileCome SundaySleeper's WakeJelly Dog DaysHarmattan Rain

Alert! The Commonwealth Foundation has released the shortlists for its annual Commonwealth Writers’ Prize – a worldwide literary sweepstakes that sees writers of fiction in four regions (Africa, the Caribbean and Canada, South Asia and Europe, and South East Asia and the Pacific) compete first for regional awards and finally for top honours amongst the regional winners at a different literary festival each year. (2008′s finals were held at the Franschhoek Literary Festival.)

The foundation sponsors two prizes in each region: one for best first book, and one for best book overall. Last year’s Africa winners were Uwem Akpan and Mandla Langa, respectively, each winning £1 000 – but both missing out on the £5 000 and £10 000 world purses (which were won by Mohammed Hanif of Pakistan and Christos Tsioklas of Australia, respectively). Akpan, however, went on to decidedly greater things, becoming an Oprah Book Club pick just a few months after picking up his regional award. The prize amounts remain unchanged in 2010.

While the rest of the continent didn’t quite break South Africa’s stranglehold on the Africa region shortlists, SA Lit is slightly less rampant than in 2009, when only one book from outside our country made either list (that being Akpan’s). Nigeria is well-represented this year with four titles among the fourteen shortlistees, while Ghana also gets a look in with Ayesha Harunna Attah’s Harmattan Rain. That still leaves the continent’s literary powerhouse with fully nine of the fourteen shortlisted titles – and one suspects that the lists might have been lengthened to seven titles each to accommodate more continental diversity.

Among the SA books, it’s interesting to note that not all originate from SA publishers: Gill Schierhout’s The Shape of Him is a Jonathan Cape title, while Come Sunday by Isla Morley is out from Sceptre. Then there’s Mark Behr’s Kings of the Water, which, although out from Penguin, was first published in the US. Is SA Lit experiencing the same “diaspora” phenomenon as writing from Nigeria? None of the non-SA authors on the lists, meanwhile, actually live in Africa. What does this say about the state of African letters, or, alternatively, the editorial process behind the picking of the shortlistees?

BOOK SA members Dawn Garisch, Rosemund Handler, Andrew Brown, Alistair Morgan and Erica Emdon feature on this year’s shortlists. Penguin, meanwhile, scored highest among local publishers, with four of its titles getting the nod. Here are the complete lists, without further ado:

Book details: 2010 Commonwealth Writers Prize Shortlist – Best Book, Africa Region

Book details: 2010 Commonwealth Writers Prize Shortlist – Best First Book, Africa Region

And here’s the official press release from the Commonwealth Foundation:

2010 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Africa Region Shortlists

 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    February 18th, 2010 @12:18 #
     
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    Congratulations! Those are very sobering questions at the end of this piece, Ben-E, but for now I am just going to cheer the shortlistees. Am particularly glad for Dawn Garisch, whose Trespass doesn't seem to have attracted the attention it deserves -- up till now, anyway :). But pleased for everyone.

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