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Zambia's Namwali Serpell Wins the 2015 Caine Prize for "The Sack"

Alert! Namwali Serpell has been announced as the winner of the 2015 Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story, “The Sack”. Serpell receives £10 000, while each shortlistee received £500.

Listen to and read the winning story here.

In an unprecedented move Serpell announced in her acceptance speech that she will be sharing the prize with her fellow shorlistees – a fine gesture indeed.

Africa39The Caine Prize Anthology 2009: Work in Progress and Other StoriesA Memory This Size and Other Stories10 Years of the Caine Prize for African WritingThe Gonjon Pin and Other StoriesLusaka Punk and Other Stories

The winner was announced at an awards ceremony and dinner at the Weston Library, Bodleian Libraries, Oxford. Zoë Wicomb chaired the panel of judges this year, which included Neel Mukherjee, Brian Chikwava, Zeinab Badawi and Cóilín Parsons.

Last year, the Caine Prize went to Okwiri Oduor, for her story “My Father’s Head”.

2015 marks the 16th time the prize has been given, and as a sign of the established calibre to be found in African writing, and maturity of the Caine Prize, the shortlist included one past winner and two previously-shortlisted writers.

Serpell’s win is a first for Zambia. She was shortlisted in 2010 for a story titled “Muzungu”, but lost to Olufemi Terry. Her 2015 winning story was published in Africa39, a collection of stories in celebration 39 of the best young African writers from south of the Sahara.

“The Sack” explores a world where dreams and reality are both claustrophobic and dark. The relationship between two men and an absent woman are explored though troubled interactions and power relationships which jar with the views held by the characters.

Read tweets from the announcement:

Related links:


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Press release

Namwali Serpell wins sixteenth Caine Prize for African Writing

Zambia’s Namwali Serpell has won the 2015 Caine Prize for African Writing, described as Africa’s leading literary award, for her short story entitled “The Sack” from Africa39 (Bloomsbury, London, 2014).
The Chair of Judges, Zoë Wicomb, announced Namwali Serpell as the winner of the £10,000 prize at a dinner held this evening (Monday, 6 July) at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

“The Sack” explores a world where dreams and reality are both claustrophobic and dark. The relationship between two men and an absent woman are explored though troubled interactions and power relationships which jar with the views held by the characters.

Zoë Wicomb praised the story, saying, “From a very strong shortlist we have picked an extraordinary story about the aftermath of revolution with its liberatory promises shattered. It makes demands on the reader and challenges conventions of the genre. It yields fresh meaning with every reading. Formally innovative, stylistically stunning, haunting and enigmatic in its effects. ‘The Sack’ is a truly luminous winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing.”

Namwali Serpell’s first published story, “Muzungu,” was selected for the Best American Short Stories 2009 and shortlisted for the 2010 Caine Prize for African Writing. In 2014, she was selected as one of the most promising African writers for the Africa 39 Anthology, a project of the Hay festival. Her writing has appeared in Tin House, The Believer, n+1, McSweeney’s (forthcoming), Bidoun, Callaloo, The San Francisco Chronicle, The L.A. Review of Books, and The Guardian. She is an associate professor in the University of California, Berkeley English department; her first book of literary criticism, Seven Modes of Uncertainty, was published in 2014.

Also shortlisted were:

  • Segun Afolabi (Nigeria) for “The Folded Leaf” in Wasafiri (Wasafiri, London, 2014)
    - Caine Prize winner 2005 for “Monday Morning”
    - Read “The Folded Leaf” here
  • Elnathan John (Nigeria) for “Flying” in Per Contra (Per Contra, International, 2014)
    - Shortlisted in 2013 for “Bayan Layi”
    Read “Flying” here
  • Masande Ntshanga (South Africa) for “Space” in Twenty in 20 (Times Media, South Africa, 2014)
    Read “Space” here

The panel of judges is chaired by South African writer and recipient of Yale’s 2013 Windham-Campbell Prize for fiction Zoë Wicomb. Zoë‘s works of fiction are You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town, David’s Story, Playing in the Light, The One That Got Away and October. She currently lives in Scotland where she is Emeritus Professor in English Studies at Strathclyde University. Her critical work is on Postcolonial theory and South African writing and culture.

Alongside Zoë on the panel of judges are Neel Mukherjee, author of the award-winning debut novel, A Life Apart (2010) and the Man Booker Prize shortlisted The Lives of Others (2014); Brian Chikwava, author and former winner of the Caine Prize (2004); Zeinab Badawi, the prominent broadcaster and Chair of the Royal African Society; and Cóilín Parsons, Assistant Professor of English at Georgetown University who has written on Irish, South African and Indian literature.

Once again the winner of the Caine Prize will be given the opportunity to take up a month’s residence at Georgetown University, as a Writer-in-Residence at the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice. Each shortlisted writer will also receive £500. The winner is invited to take part in the Open Book Festival in Cape Town, Storymoja in Nairobi and Ake Festival in Abeokuta, Nigeria.
Last year the Caine Prize was won by Kenyan writer Okwiri Oduor. She was a 2014 MacDowell Colony fellow and has been accepted on the Iowa Writing Programme and is currently at work on her debut novel.

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), Sierra Leonean Olufemi Terry (2010), Zimbabwean NoViolet Bulawayo (2011), Nigerian Tope Folarin (2013), and Kenyan Okwiri Oduor (2015).


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Elnathan John Has a Simple Plan In Case He Doesn't Win the Caine Prize Tonight (For the Second Time)

Lusaka Punk and Other StoriesElnathan John – one of the five shortlisted authors for the 2015 Caine Prize – has written an article in preparation for tonight’s big announcement, entitled “How To Act Appropriately When You Don’t Win The Cain Prize (Twice)”.

John, who was shortlisted in 2013 but lost out to fellow Nigerian Tope Folarin, notes that he is at least grateful for the £500 he can be sure of taking home tonight and writes:

“I am happy about this. It means I can buy an air conditioner and maybe even a small generator for my studio apartment in Abuja. Whatever the case, my levels have changed and even with a second loss (especially with my new air conditioner), God has kinda blessed my hustle. And that is all that matters.”

The full time writer, who lives and works in Nigeria, is shortlisted for his story “Flying”. His writing has been published in various international publications and he has tried hard, but has never won anything. His debut novel is due from Cassava Republic PressBorn on a Tuesday – in 2015 and Grove Atlantic’s Black Cat in 2016. He is a 2015 Civitella Ranieri fellow, along with South Africans Margie Orford and Masande Ntshanga (who is also shortlisted for the 2015 Caine Prize).

Read John’s article for his simple plan in case he does not win tonight:


By the time you are reading this, it will be only hours before the announcement of the winner of the 2015 Caine Prize for African Writing. Five writers who identify as African will be headed to Oxford to hear which of their stories has been selected by the judges to win 10 thousand pounds. I like to think of it in naira. Not because I think of winning. Because “3 million naira” sounds sexier.

Also read:

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A Gallery of Pictures of Doc Immelman, Writer and Poet

Die groot sand en ander storiesBaarde, briewe en barmhartigheid\'n Kwartmiljoen Mauserpatrone

Doc Immelman is the author of Die groot sand en ander stories and many more adventure stories set in Namibia and South Africa.

As a tribute to their father, Lorraine Immelman and Yvette Muldoon have compiled the story of his life along with some of his writing and photographs.

The website’s gallery contains images from Immelman’s childhood in the Cape and significant moments in his life as a writer and poet. The pictures give an idea of his important influences and proof of a good life well lived.

View the gallery:


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The Guardian to 2015 Caine Prize Shortlistees: "What Does it Mean to be an African Writer?"

The five authors shortlisted for the 2015 Caine Prize for African Writing – South Africans Masande Ntshanga and FT Kola, Nigerians Segun Afolabi and Elnathan John, and Zambian Namwali Serpell – all took part in the 2015 Africa Writes Festival in London this past weekend.

In addition to that, and as part of a special build-up to tonight’s announcement of the winner of the esteemed title and £10,000 prize, they took part in a live Q&A on The Guardian centred around the theme, “What does it mean to be an African writer?”

One contributor to the conversation, MrTibs, asked each author a specific question about their individual stories, the only contribution that had directly to do with the reason they were all gathered – their short stories.

Other questions varied with some eliciting interesting, insightful answers while others merely revealed the flaws in the western way of viewing African literature as an entity as opposed to individual bodies of work produced by individual countries.

Here are some of the more interesting questions asked during the Q&A:

  • How do you feel about the level of status the Caine Prize occupies in western conversations about African lit?
  • Are there typical regional differences in style, form and/or content across the continent?
  • Why do you think you are being treated as political spokespeople for your entire continent? Does this say something about the multiple responsibilities thrust upon African writers, or just about the readership of the Guardian? What topics would you prefer to be considered a spokesperson for?
  • What would you say is the ratio of questions you get about “African writing” or being an “African writer” to the number of questions you get about your own, individual writing? Or just about being a writer, full-stop? And what, in your opinion, could a publication like The Guardian have done to correct this disparity?
  • Is it possible to write a great African novel that ignores issues of race/colonialism? Do you think such a novel would find it harder to achieve international popularity/acclaim?
  • Do the national curriculums in your countries include the reading of your works in school? And if so, do you think that your writing sparks debates?
  • Do you believe your books will be an inspiration for change in your own respective countries? Or are you happy with the current status quo and would your books reflect either of these spectrum’s if I chose to pick one up?
  • Is now the appropriate time for famous African authors to take a stand? How many books has each of the panel written to date that seeking to point out the path of reason? How many more such do they plan to write?

Think African literature and who springs to mind? Chinua Achebe, “the father of modern African literature”? Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the writer whose voice was famously sampled in Beyoncé’s Flawless and recently sparked nationwide discussion on sexism in Nigeria.

But who else? Despite the talent of and calibre of African writers, most struggle to get the international recognition they deserve. The Caine Prize, now in its 16th year, seeks to remedy this with an annual celebration of the continent’s best writers.

Focused on short-stories the accolade has been awarded to some of the most prominent names from the continent today, including Kenya’s Binyavanga Wainaina, Sierra Leone’s Olufemi Terry and Zimbabwe’s NoViolet Bulawayo.

But why do African writers struggle to get noticed? Is the “African literature” grouping a help or hindrance? What, if anything, links these writers together? Is there really such as “African literature”?

We’ve asked the five shortlisted writers from this year’s Caine prize – Segun Afolabi, Elnathan John, FT Kola, Masande Ntshanga and Namwali Serpell – to join our panel to discuss these questions; offer tips for budding writers and talk about their work.

The Q&A, as well as the Africa Writes Festival, drew quite a significant amount of people on Twitter. See tweets using the hashtag #AfricaWrites:

The ReactiveTwenty in 20A Life ElsewhereThe Gonjon Pin and Other StoriesFeast, Famine and PotluckAfrica39

Related links:

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  • Twenty in 20: The Best Short Stories of South Africa’s 20 Years of Democracy by , , , , , edited by Mandla Langa
    EAN: 9781928216421
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

Argentine Author Faces Prison Sentence for "Plagiarising" Borges in Literary Experiment

The AlephnullArgentine novelist, poet and university lecturer Pablo Katchadjian faces up to six years in prison, after his literary experiment involving Jorge Luis Borges’ The Aleph.

The lawsuit was initiated by Maria Kodama, Borges’ widow and guardian of the Borgesian literary estate.

Almost 3 000 writers, intellectuals and other supporters have signed an open letter protesting the prosecution of Katchadjian, and a public demonstration is due to take place tonight (3 July 2015), at the National Library in Buenos Aires, which Borges ran from 1955-73.

The Guardian explains the irony of the case:

In the short story Pierre Menard: Author of Quixote, Jorge Luis Borges writes of an author’s quest to reproduce Cervantes’ masterpiece, word by word, comma after comma. “Pierre Menard did not want to compose another Quixote, which surely is easy enough – he wanted to compose the Quixote,” Borges writes.

More likely than not to be aware of this Borgesian playfulness, Argentine author Pablo Katchadjian decided in 2009 to remix one of Borges’s most renowned short stories The Aleph, keeping the original text but adding a considerable amount of his own writing. The result was the short experimental book called El Aleph engordado (The Fattened Aleph), published by a small underground press in a short run of 300 copies. An unfortunate consequence of Katchadjian’s literary experiments is an ongoing lawsuit initiated in 2011 by Maria Kodama, Borges’s widow and fervent guardian of his literary estate.

Press release:

Argentine novelist, poet and university lecturer Pablo Katchadjian is being prosecuted for “intellectual property fraud” on the basis of his 2009 short experimental book El Aleph Engordado (The Fattened Aleph). The criminal lawsuit has been brought by Maria Kodama, widow of the Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges and guardian of the Borgesian literary estate. Katchadjian’s assets have been frozen and he could face up to six years in prison if found guilty.

PEN International believes that the criminal prosecution of Katchadjian is a disproportionate reaction to a literary experiment and is calling for the criminal charges against him to be dropped.


Katchadjian (born 1977) is the critically acclaimed author of 10 books, including the novels Gracias (Thanks), La libertad total (Total Freedom) and Qué hacer (What to do – an English translation of which is reportedly forthcoming from Dalkey Archive, USA). His work has been translated into English, French and Hebrew. An opera adaptation of La libertad total was reportedly performed in Buenos Aires in 2014. Katchadjian is also a lecturer at the social sciences faculty of the University of Buenos Aires.

The lawsuit against Katchadjian was brought in 2011 on the basis that El Aleph Engordado – which takes Borges’ well known short story El Aleph and “fattens” it by adding some 5,600 words of his own to Borges’ original 4,000 – amounted to plagiarism. The charges are based on an archaic intellectual property law (Law 11.723 of 1933, Article 71), which along with the Argentine Penal Code (Article 172), establishes that those found guilty of such fraud can face between one month and six years’ imprisonment.

El Aleph Engordado was published in 2009 by Imprenta Argentina de Poesía, a small independent press, in a print run of 200 copies, most of which were reportedly given away to friends. In a postscript to El Aleph Engordado dated 1 November 2008, Katchadjian makes it clear that the preceding text is his expansion of Borges’ El Aleph. According to Katchadjian, the book was out of print well before the lawsuit was filed and there was never any intention to reprint it; nor was there an official digital edition. There was therefore no intention on his part to pass Borges’ text off as his own or, apparently, to make a profit.

The lawsuit against Katchadjian was initially dismissed by a court of first instance after his lawyer, Ricardo Straface, also a writer, successfully argued that his work was a “literary experiment” and that there can only be “intellectual property fraud” if the author has been deceitful. At this point the Attorney General’s office (Ministerio Público) withdrew from the case, indicating that it did not believe that a crime had been committed. The ruling was confirmed on appeal.

However, Kodama took the case to a higher (appellate) court, which was reportedly not convinced that Katchadjian had differentiated the original text from his own additions, and ordered the first instance court to review its decision. (In the postscript to El Aleph Engordado, Katchadjian clarifies that: “Although I didn’t try to hide behind Borges’ style, nor did I write with the intention of making myself too visible. It seems to me that the best moments are those where you don’t know for sure what belong to whom.”)

Compelled by the ruling of the appellate court, on 18 June 2015, Katchadjian was formally charged with “intellectual property fraud” by the same judge who had originally dismissed the case. The appeals court also froze his assets, imposing an 80,000 peso (c. US$8,800) embargo on his property. Katchadjian’s lawyer has appealed the decision.

Almost 3,000 writers, intellectuals and other supporters from Argentina and beyond have signed an open letter protesting the prosecution of Katchadjian, including César Aira and Carlos Gamerro. A public demonstration is due to take place tonight (3 July 2015), at the National Library in Buenos Aires – of which Borges was director from 1955-73.

Although the lawsuit against Katchadjian is not thought to be politically motivated, a conviction would have far-reaching implications for literary freedom and creativity in Argentina and beyond. According to an article in the UK Guardian by the Argentine writer and critic Fernando Sdrigotti, “the real issue in the Katchadjian case is not literary integrity but financial value, and it is not about protecting Borges’s oeuvre, as the plaintiff claims.” Sdrigotti adds: “it seems unlikely that Katchadjian will actually end up in prison, but the implications of taking writers to court over creative acts are chilling.”

Katchadjian’s supporters point out the irony of a writer being accused of copying Borges, a writer known for his fascination with the reproducibility of the classics and literary forgery. Commentators on the case have alluded to Borges’ short story ‘Pierre Menard: Author of the Quixote’ which imagines a fictional French author’s quest to recreate Cervantes’ masterpiece.

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Image courtesy of Los Inrocks

Wenner van Kuier, LAPA en PEN Afrikaans se kortverhaalkompetisie aangekondig

Joanne Alexander en Japie Gouws

Joanna Alexander se kortverhaal “Meester” is gister tydens ‘n spesiale mediafunksie in Kaapstad aangekondig as die wenner van LAPA en Kuier se kortverhaalkompetisie.

Hierdie kompetisie is geloods om nuwe stemme uit die bruin gemeenskap te ontdek en ontwikkel. Cliffordene Norton, projekleier by LAPA, het met die aankondiging meer vertel oor dié inisiatief:

Cliffordene Norton

Die kompetisie het die eerste keer verskyn in Kuier in die 28e Januarie se uitgawe en dit het gehardloop tot 31 Maart.

Die eerste maand, Januarie, het ons slegs drie stories ontvang en ek het so bietjie bekommerd geraak om die minste te sê. Februarie het ons 16 kortverhale ontvang, en nogsteeds was ek bekommerd. En toe ek 17 Maart my inbox oopmaak is daar 80 kortverhale en teen die einde van die kompetisie, op 31 Maart, het ons 263 inskrywings gehad.

Die doel agter die kompetisie was om nuwe stemme te ontwikkel. Unieke stemme, maar ook bruin stemme. Want soos ons sê, ons soek stories daar buite wat vir my – ek is ‘n bruin coloured persoon – wat ek sal wil lees in my éie taal, waarmee ék kan saamleef. Waar ek as leser die karakter, die taal en omgewing kan herken.

Dit was vir my ‘n baie goeie projek, na aan my hart.

Die tema vir die kompetisie was “Uit die hart”, geïnspireer deur Kuier se agterbladrubriek “Wat die hart van vol is”. Die skrywers moes ’n verhaal van 1 000 tot 1 500 woorde inskryf.

Saam met Norton het Raylentia Simmons (assistentredakteur by Kuier), Bettina Wyngaard (die skrywer van Vuilspel en ’n lid van PEN Afrikaans), Diana Ferrus (die skrywer van Ons Komvandaan) en Shirmoney Rhode (digter en blogger by LitNet) as beoordelaars ingespring en begin lees.

Met ‘n geswoeg en gesweet, en beskaafde bakleiery, is die totaal van al die inskrywings tot slegs 15 verkort.

Die top 15 lyk soos volg:

Alida Walker (‘n Prys om te betaal)
Karel von Waltsleben (Waakengel)
Antoinette Venter (’n Mossie soos Emma)
Lucreshia Pietersen (Juliana Alias Lanatjie)
Rita Swanepoel (Nuwejaar)
Adele van Zyl (Gebottelde duiwel)
Ilisna Nel (Uit die oog)
Bernice Saulse (Fooitog)
Miriam Telanie (‘n Nuwe dag, ‘n nuwe droom)
Magdalena Wardle (Mishandeling)
Salvia E Ockhuis (Vloksman)
Terence Mesias(Moedertjie)
Joanna Alexander (Meester)
Theltom Masimila (Net tot na die einde)
Tienie Holtzhausen (Pap en runners)

Al hierdie skrywers word gevolgelik genooi om ‘n slypskool by die Universiteit van Wes-Kaapland (UWK) by te woon, wat deur Anastasia de Vries (UWK), Diana Ferrus (die Afrikaanse Skrywersvereniging) en Annemarie Swartz (UWK) aangebied sal word.

Uit die top 15 is Alexander se verhaal gekies as die wenverhaal. Sy ontvang R5 000 en haar storie word in die laaste Julie-uitgawe van Kuier gepubliseer. Die ander finaliste ontvang elk R1 000.

Lees ook:


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LAPA het op 2 Julie die wenner van die Kuier-kortverhaalkompetisie aangekondig en ook Chanette Paul se Lekkerlitprys aan…

Posted by Lapa Uitgewers on Thursday, 2 July 2015

Helené Prinsloo (@helenayp) het regstreeks vanaf die aankondiging getwiet: