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The 2010 Caine Prize for African Writing Shortlist: Barris, Mabura, Serpell, Smith and Terry

New Writing from Africa 2009Caine PrizeAlert! Rumours about the shortlist for this year’s £10 000 Caine Prize for African Writing have been swirling all weekend, thanks to an email from the offices of SA PEN, whose New Writing from Africa 2009 was said to contain two of the short stories in the running.

Happily, BOOK SA can confirm the rumours: both Alex Smith and Ken Barris, compiled in New Writing, represent South Africa on this year’s list – as, in a way, does a third writer who firmly counts as a member of the SA Lit scene, Olufemi Terry. (He’s officially representing Sierra Leone.)

Ken BarrisFemi TerryAlex Smith signs books at Algeria's Way reading

The Caine Prize, now in its eleventh year, is given annually to a short story by an African writer published in a recognised book, journal, website or magazine. Last year’s winner was Nigeria’s EC Osundu; in 2008, Henrietta Rose-Innes took the gong.

This year’s shortlist sees writers from Kenya and Zambia, in addition to South Africa and Sierra Leone, competing for honours; without further ado:

2010 Caine Prize for African Writing shortlist

  • Ken Barris for “The Life of Worm” (South Africa; New Writing from Africa 2009)
  • Lily Mabura for “How Shall We Kill the Bishop” (Kenya; Wasafiri)
  • Namwali Serpell for “Muzungu” (Zambia; The Best American Short Stories 2009)
  • Alex Smith for “Soulmates” (South Africa; New Writing from Africa 2009)
  • Olufemi Terry for “Stickfighting Days” (Sierra Leone; Chimurenga)

All the shortlistees receive a travel award to help them attend the Caine Prize writing workshop later this year.

The winner is traditionally announced in July. Congratulations and best of luck to all, but especially to Barris, Smith and Terry!

Here’s the official press release:

Press release

Eleventh Caine Prize shortlist announced

The shortlist for the 2010 Caine Prize for African Writing has been announced (Monday 26 April 2010). The Caine Prize, widely known as the ‘African Booker’ and regarded as Africa’s leading literary award, is now in its eleventh year. The chair of judges, The Economist literary editor Fiammetta Rocco, said: “Africa has much to be proud of in these five writers. Not only are their stories all confident, ambitious and skillfully written, each one boasts an added dimension – a voice, character or particular emotional connection – that makes it uniquely powerful.”

Selected from 115 entries from 13 African countries, the shortlist is once again a reflection of the Caine Prize’s pan-African reach. The winner of the £10,000 prize is to be announced at a celebratory dinner at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, on Monday 5 July.

The 2010 shortlist comprises:

Ken Barris (S Africa) ‘The Life of Worm’ from ‘New Writing from Africa 2009′, published by Johnson & King James Books, Cape Town

Lily Mabura (Kenya) ‘How Shall We Kill the Bishop?’ from ‘Wasafiri’ No53, Spring 2008

Namwali Serpell (Zambia) ‘Muzungu’ from ‘The Best American Short Stories 2009′, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston MA

Alex Smith (S Africa) ‘Soulmates’ from ‘New Writing from Africa 2009′ [see above]

Olufemi Terry (Sierra Leone) ‘Stickfighting Days’ from ‘Chimurenga’ vol 12/13, Cape Town 2008

Joining Fiammetta on the judging panel this year are Granta deputy editor Ellah Allfrey, Professor Jon Cook of the University of East Anglia, and Georgetown University professor Samantha Pinto.

Once again the winner of the £10,000 Caine Prize will be given the opportunity of taking up a month’s residence at Georgetown University, Washington DC, as a ‘Caine Prize/Georgetown University Writer-in-Residence’. The award will cover all travel and living expenses.

Last year the Caine Prize was won by Nigerian writer EC Osondu for his short story ‘Waiting’ from, October 2008. Chair of judges Nana Yaa Mensah called it “a tour de force describing, from a child’s point of view, the dislocating experience of being a displaced person. It is powerfully written with not an ounce of fat on it – and deeply moving.”

Previous winners include Uganda’s Monica Arac de Nyeko, for Jambula Tree from ‘African Love Stories’, Ayebia Clarke Publishing, 2006, and Brian Chikwava, from Zimbabwe, whose first novel Harare North has just been published by Jonathan Cape.

This year the shortlisted writers will be reading from their work at the Royal Over-Seas League on Friday, 2 July at 7pm and at the London Literature Festival at the Southbank Centre, on Sunday, 4 July at 1pm.


Book details


Recent comments:

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    April 26th, 2010 @12:15 #

    I love it when BOOK SA beats the press release. I've just appended the official announcement of the shortlist to the bottom of the post.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    April 26th, 2010 @12:55 #

    Whoop whoop! SO thrilled and delighted for Alex -- if anyone will put a writing workshop to good use, it's her and her nimble mind. Crossing fingers... and hearty congrats to the other shortlistees, too. Do us proud!

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    April 26th, 2010 @15:31 #

    Here's the Guardian's take on the shortlist:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    April 26th, 2010 @15:52 #

    So happy for Alex! Well done.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    April 26th, 2010 @16:58 #

    Well done, Alex, and congrats to the other shortlistees, of course!

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Liesl</a>
    April 26th, 2010 @19:27 #

    Very exciting! I'm thrilled for Alex, Ken and Femi.

    Wishing you all the best of luck and a fine workshop experience.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Henrietta</a>
    April 27th, 2010 @13:39 #

    brilliant news!! Many congratulations to the whole shortlist, and holding thumbs especially for Ken, Alex, Femi.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
    Alex Smith
    April 27th, 2010 @15:21 #

    Thanks all! It's startling ... On Friday afternoon at 5.05 I had a customer, who (for no good reason) threw a magazine at me, so I left work kind of trembling at the injustice of it all. Walking home along the sea my phone rang, another invasion of peace, I thought, until it rang off and a message arrived from Deborah at SA PEN : phone urgently I have wonderful news.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Sarah Lotz</a>
    Sarah Lotz
    April 27th, 2010 @15:24 #

    I think this is definitely your year, Alex - holding thumbs for you, and many congrats to Femi, Ken and the other shortlistees.


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