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Rotimi Babatunde Wins the 2012 Caine Prize for African Writing for “Bombay’s Republic”

African VioletAlert! Nigerian author Rotimi Babatunde has won the annual £10 000 Caine Prize for African Writing, as announced at the Bodleian Library in Oxford this evening.

Babatunde wins the 2012 prize for his short story, “Bombay’s Republic”, which Chair of Judges, Bernardine Evaristo, described as “ambitious” and “darkly humorous”.

Read “Bombay’s Republic” by Rotimi Babatunde:

The old jailhouse on the hilltop had remained uninhabited for many decades, through the construction of the town’s first grammar school and the beginning of house-to-house harassment from the affliction called sanitary inspectors, through the laying of the railway tracks by navvies who likewise succeeded in laying pregnancies in the bellies of several lovestruck girls, but fortunes changed for the building with the return of Colour Sergeant Bombay, the veteran who went off with the recruitment officers to Hitler’s War as a man and came back a spotted leopard.

Before Bombay’s departure when everything in the world was locked in its individual box, he could not have believed such metamorphosis was possible. A man was still a man and a leopard a leopard while the old jailhouse was a forsaken place not fit for human habitation. A white man was the District Officer who went by in an impressive white jacket and a black man was the Native Police constable who saluted as the white man passed. This was how the world was and there was no reason to think it could be otherwise. But the war came and the bombs started falling, shattering things out of their imprisonment in boxes and jumbling them without logic into a protean mishmash. Without warning, everything became possible.

Babatunde was shortlisted for the award alongside Billy Kahora (Kenya, “Urban Zoning”), Stanley Kenani (Malawi, “Love on Trial”), Melissa Tandiwe Myambo (Zimbabwe, “La Salle de Départ”) and Constance Myburgh (South Africa, “Hunter Emmanuel”). Last year’s prize went to NoViolet Bulawayo for “Hitting Budapest”. Our warmest congratulations to Babatunde!

~ ~ ~

Press release:

Nigeria’s Rotimi Babatunde has won the 2012 Caine Prize for African Writing, described as Africa’s leading literary award, for his short story entitled ‘Bombay’s Republic’ from Mirabilia Review Vol. 3.9 (Lagos, 2011).

The Chair of Judges, Bernardine Evaristo MBE, announced Rotimi Babatunde as the winner of the
£10,000 prize at a dinner held this evening (Monday, 2 July) at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.
Bernardine Evaristo said: “Bombay’s Republic vividly describes the story of a Nigerian soldier fighting in
the Burma campaign of World War Two. It is ambitious, darkly humorous and in soaring, scorching prose
exposes the exploitative nature of the colonial project and the psychology of Independence.”

Rotimi Babatunde’s fiction and poems have been published in Africa, Europe and America in journals which include Die Aussenseite des Elementes and Fiction on the Web and in anthologies including Little Drops and A Volcano of Voices. He is a winner of the Meridian Tragic Love Story Competition organised by the BBC World Service and his plays have been staged and presented by institutions which include the Halcyon Theatre, Chicago and the Institute for Contemporary Arts. He is currently taking part in a collaboratively produced piece at the Royal Court and the Young Vic as part of World Stages for a World City. Rotimi lives in Ibadan, Nigeria.

Also shortlisted were:

• Billy Kahora (Kenya) ‘Urban Zoning’ from McSweeney’s Vol. 37 (San Francisco, 2011)

• Stanley Kenani (Malawi) ‘Love on Trial’ from For Honour and Other Stories published by
eKhaya/Random House Struik (Cape Town, 2011)

• Melissa Tandiwe Myambo (Zimbabwe) ‘La Salle de Départ’ from Prick of the Spindle Vol. 4.2 (New Orleans, June, 2010)

• Constance Myburgh (South Africa) ‘Hunter Emmanuel’ from Jungle Jim Issue 6, (Cape Town, 2011)

The panel of judges is chaired by Bernardine Evaristo, the award-winning author of six books of fiction and verse fiction. Her new novel, Mr Loverman, will be published by Penguin 2013. She is a literary critic, teaches creative writing at Brunel University and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Society of Arts.

Alongside Bernardine on the panel of judges this year are cultural journalist Maya Jaggi, Zimbabwean poet, songwriter and writer Chirikure Chirikure, Associate Professor at Georgetown University, Washington DC Samantha Pinto, and the Sudanese CNN television correspondent Nima Elbagir.

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, as a Writer-in-Residence at the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice. The award will cover all travel and living expenses. The winner will also be invited to take part in the Open Book Festival in Cape Town in September 2012 and events hosted by the Museum of African Art in New York in November 2012.

Last year the Caine Prize was won by Zimbabwean writer NoViolet Bulawayo. She has subsequently been awarded the highly regarded two-year Stegner Writing Fellowship at Stanford University, in the United States and her debut novel, We Need New Names, is forthcoming from Little, Brown in North America and Chatto and Windus in the UK.

Previous winners are Sudan’s Leila Aboulela (2000), Nigerian Helon Habila (2001), Kenyan Binyavanga Wainaina (2002), Kenyan Yvonne Owuor (2003), Zimbabwean Brian Chikwava (2004), Nigerian Segun Afolabi (2005), South African Mary Watson (2006), Ugandan Monica Arac de Nyeko (2007), South African Henrietta Rose-Innes (2008), Nigerian EC Osondu (2009) and Sierra Leonean Olufemi Terry (2010).


Book details


Recent comments:

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    July 2nd, 2012 @23:15 #

    Apology to the Caine Prize and our readers: we led with the news of Babtunde's win prematurely this evening, a breach of embargo that was accidental. It was prompted by word of the winner on Twitter, but was nonetheless an error on our part.

    We have since apologised for the breach to several parties apart from the Caine Prize; eg:

    We will endeavour to ensure this doesn't happen again.

    Hearty congratulations to Babatunde on his fine story and win.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    July 3rd, 2012 @01:17 #

    Eina! So Bookslive was "voor op die wa". Cue a zillion jokes about "twits". And congratulations to the winner.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Henrietta</a>
    July 3rd, 2012 @10:57 #

    Many congratulations to Babatunde!


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