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Read Lidudumalingani's 2016 Caine Prize-winning story "Memories We Lost"

Read Lidudumalingani's 2016 Caine Prize-winning story - and listen to him read it


This Fiction Friday, celebrate South African writer Lidudumalingani’s recent Caine Prize victory by reading his winning story, “Memories We Lost”.

The piece was originally published in the 2015 Short Sharp Stories anthology Incredible Journey: Stories That Move You, when it was described by Diane Awerbuck as “a terrifying examination of mental illness based on the writer’s real-life familial experiences”.

At the prize announcement, Chair of Judges Jarrett-Macauley said the story “explores a difficult subject – how traditional beliefs in a rural community are used to tackle schizophrenia”.

“This is a troubling piece,” she continued, “depicting the great love between two young siblings in a beautifully drawn Eastern Cape. Multi-layered, and gracefully narrated, this short story leaves the reader full of sympathy and wonder at the plight of its protagonists.”

Tseliso Monaheng gives a beautiful reading of the story, available to listen to on Soundcloud:


Don’t miss Lidudumalingani in Johannesburg for an iSwareyi at the end of July.

Without further ado, read an excerpt from “Memories We Lost”:

There was never a forewarning that this thing was coming.

It came out of nowhere, as ghosts do, and it would disappear as it had come. Every time it left, I stretched my arms out in all directions, mumbled two short prayers, one to God and another to the ancestors, and then waited on my terrified sister to embrace me.

The embraces, I remember, were always tight and long, as if she hoped the moment would last forever.

Every time this thing took her, she returned altered, unrecognisable, as if two people were trapped inside her, both fighting to get out, but not before tearing each other into pieces. The first thing that this thing took from her, from us, was speech, and then it took our memories.

She began speaking in a language that was unfamiliar, her words trembling as if trying to relay unthinkable revelations from the gods. The memories faded one after the other until our past was a blur.

Some of the memories that have remained with me are of her screaming and running away from home. I remember when she ran out to the fields in the middle of the night, screaming, first waking my mother and me and then abducting the entire village from their sleep. Men and boys emerged from their houses carrying their knobkerries as if out to hunt an animal. Women and children stayed behind, frightened children clutching their mother’s nightgowns. The men and boys, disorientated and peeved, shuffled in the dark and split into small groups as instructed by a man who at the absence of a clear plan crowned himself a leader. Those with torches flicked them on and pushed back the darkness. Some took candles; they squeezed their bodies close and wrapped blankets around themselves in an attempt to block the wind, but all their matches extinguished before they could light a single candle.

Those without torches or candles walked on even though the next step in such darkness was possibly a plunge down a cliff. This was unlikely, it should be said, as most of them were born in the village, grew up there, got married there, had used that very same field as their toilet for all their lives, and had had in overlapping periods only left the village when they went to work for the white man in large cities.

They had a blueprint of the village in their minds; its walking paths, its indentations, its rivers, its mountains, its holes where ghosts lived were imprinted in their blood.

Hours later, the first small group of men and boys, and then another and another, emerged from the darkness. They did not find her. They had looked everywhere, at least they had claimed. They were worried about not finding my sister or annoyed at being woken in the middle of the night – I could not tell. Morphed into defeated men, their faces drooped to the floor, and their bodies slouched as if they had carried a heavy load. Each group was not aware of the other groups’ whereabouts.

They did not even know if the other groups still existed or if the night had swallowed them. They had last seen them when they wished them luck when they split up. They had heard them yell my sister’s name, in the dark, before going silent.

She did not scream.
She did not cry.
She did not scream.
She did not cry.
She did not respond to the calls.

Each group chanted with great terror. With each group that emerged, I hoped that it would chant something else, but nothing changed; the chant was, as if it had been rehearsed for a long time, repeated the same each time, tearing my heart apart.

She did not scream.
She did not cry.
She did not scream.
She did not cry.
She did not respond to our screams.

The chant went on until all groups had returned.

Mother, a woman of tall build and wide hips, only returned home when the sun was way up in the sky the next day, carrying my sister on her back.

She would scream in intervals as if to taunt me, my mother said.

Related stories:

Incredible JourneyLusaka Punk and Other StoriesThe Gonjon Pin and Other Stories10 Years of the Caine Prize for African WritingA Memory This Size and Other StoriesThe Caine Prize Anthology 2009: Work in Progress and Other Stories


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Images courtesy of The Caine Prize

Read an excerpt from Binyavanga Wainaina's new short story, "Alien Taste"

Kwani?One Day I Will Write About This PlaceHow to Write About Africa

“There are times that even Graham believes the story he has peddled for so many years, about how he came to be gay.”

This Fiction Friday, dip into “Alien Taste”, a new short story on Brittle Paper by acclaimed author Binyavanga Wainaina.

The story starts with the protagonist thinking back on the time he first realised he was gay. Fifteen-year-old Graham drinks beer and has had sex with an older woman (but isn’t convinced that he liked either events).

“He assumed that sex was like beer—that soon it would create an unquestioning language in him, and he could lose himself in its subtleties.”

On the day he decides to smoke in public for the first time, Graham meets a man named Fred, a big Irishman with a deep, careless voice.

Read the excerpt:

There are times that even Graham believes the story he has peddled for so many years, about how he came to be gay. That he had always known; that he used to dress up in his mother; that he had been riveted by the biceps of Mohammed Ali, the anger of those black panthers on television; that he had played the kerfuffle game in public school; that the old gay friends of his mother, who had hosted him when she was in rehab, or consulting her guru in Lucknow, had made it easy to see possibilities in this world. These things are all true, but only small accessories to the main event.

But the main event, as seen by him now, is also untruthful: it was not as clear a sexual selection as he prefers to imagine, and he knows this enough not to share this story– it could well be that he was always gay, and that he would have come to it in one way or another, despite his self-protests to the contrary. But the unambiguous epiphany that the first gay fuck gave him marked not his sexuality, but his approach to life itself, it was his Woodstock, his civil rights movement. And inside himself, he remains unconvinced of his visceral homosexuality, believes that he has willfully created himself.

Related stories:


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Image courtesy of Brittle Paper and Department of Arts and Culture

Winners of the 2016 Short Sharp Stories Awards announced!

Adults OnlyBloody SatisfiedIncredible Journey

Alert! Tattoo Press and Burnet Media are proud to announce the winners of the 2016 Short Sharp Stories Awards for Die Laughing – “stories of wit, satire and humour”.

The winning tales were revealed on Wednesday morning at the National Arts Festival and were selected from a shortlist of 20 stories, announced earlier this year.

Here are the winners of the 2016 Short Sharp Stories Awards:



This Could Get Messy by Greg Lazarus

“A simply wonderful story about love …
Funny, with its twists and turns, chuckles and sadness.”


This Is Not A Joke, Maureen by Gail Schimmel

“Really funny despite its dark subject matter.
The depiction of the humourless mother is exquisite.”

Angel Heart by Kobus Moolman

“Unconventional, with an adventurous play of syntax,
and a truly original imagining of Jesus. Bizarre, and intriguing.”


Learning a New Language by Fred Khumalo

“Tongue-in-cheek action which shows up misogyny …
and makes a statement as to learning to appreciate women.”


Jim Goes to Durban by Anton Krueger and Pravasan Pillay

“Good, honest, laugh-out-loud slapstick.”

Number One With A Bullet by Christopher McMichael

“Truly laugh-out-loud funny, with a satirical edge.”

The Derby by Ofentse Ribane

“Written with a sharp energy and an original take.”

The Viewing Room by Diane Awerbuck

“A sophisticated, melancholy and quirky story.”

The Seduction of Ozzie Stone by Stephen Symons

“The ironies, the plot, it all comes together in easy-flowing, integrated writing,
and leaves one smiling wistfully.”

What did the judges have to say about this year’s Short Sharp Stories?

Karabo K Kgoleng: “There are so many things to consider when you have to judge short stories. The lesson in the judging process, for me, is that I have to always contend with the competing imperatives – mostly style and politics. Death and laughter are encapsulated in the stories that scored for me, the stories that balance these, bearing in mind that I must personally respond to the story.”

Ken Barris: “One’s sense of humour is so subjective that it was a challenge to evaluate the Die Laughing entries. How does one judge the quality and quantity of funny? The tales that stood out were subtle and finely observed, viewed the world from an intriguing position, or were edgy and engaging in style. Most important, the best made me laugh.”

Karina M Szczurek: “I am thrilled with the intriguing interpretations of this year’s theme. The inventiveness, the mix of raw and honed talent, and the dark humour make for a rewarding read.”

Earlier this week Lidudumalingani won the 2016 Caine Prize for African Writing for his short story “Memories We Lost”, which was published in the 2015 anthology Incredible Journey: Stories that Move You.

The 2014 anthology Adults Only: Stories of love, lust, sex and sexuality edited by Joanne Hichens won the Edited Fiction Volume Award at the inaugural National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS) Book, Creative and Digital Awards.

This new collection features a foreword by Evita Bezuidenhout, an introduction by Darrel Bristow-Bovey and was edited by Hichens, who is also the curator of the Awards. Keep an eye on Books LIVE for the release date of Die Laughing.

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South African Lidudumalingani wins 2016 Caine Prize for African Writing

Alert! South African writer Lidudumalingani has won the seventeenth Caine Prize for African Writing.

Lidudumalingani was announced as the winner of the 2016 Caine Prize for African Writing, described as Africa’s leading literary award, for his short story entitled “Memories We Lost” published in Incredible Journey: Stories That Move You

“Memories We Lost” tells the emotionally charged story of a girl who acts as protector of her sister, whose serious mental-health problems cause consternation in a South African village. Her situation deteriorates as her care is entrusted to Nkunzi, a local man who employs traditional techniques to rid people of their demons.

At the announcement, Chair of Judges Delia Jarrett-Macauley praised the story, saying, “The winning story explores a difficult subject – how traditional beliefs in a rural community are used to tackle schizophrenia. this is a troubling piece, depicting the great love between two young siblings in a beautifully drawn Eastern Cape. Multi-layered, and gracefully narrated, this short story leaves the reader full of sympathy and wonder at the plight of its protagonists”.

Lidudumalingani is a writer, filmmaker and photographer. He was born in the Eastern Cape province in South Africa, in a village called Zikhovane. Lidudumalingani has published short stories, non-fiction and criticism in various publications. His films have been screened at a number of film festivals. He is the third South African to win this prestigious prize, after Mary Watson (2006) and Henrietta Rose-Innes (2008).

Read Lidudumalingani’s story “Memories We Lost” here, then listen to Tseliso Monaheng reading it:


Incredible JourneyLusaka Punk and Other StoriesThe Gonjon Pin and Other Stories10 Years of the Caine Prize for African WritingA Memory This Size and Other StoriesThe Caine Prize Anthology 2009: Work in Progress and Other Stories


2016 Caine Prize for African Writing shortlist:

2016 Caine Prize for African Writing judging panel announced

As the winner of the Caine Prize, Lidudumalingani 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. Furthermore, he will be invited to speak at the Library of Congress, andbe 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 Zambian writer Namwali Serpell. Namwali is an associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley English department. Her first book of literary criticism, Seven Modes of Uncertainty, was published in 2014. Since winning the Caine Prize, the world rights to Namwali’s first book of fiction, The Old Drift, were pre-empted and it will be published by Hogarth in the US and Chatto and Windus in the UK.

The New Internationalist 2016 anthology is now published and it includes all of the shortlisted stories along with 12 other short stories written at the Caine Prize 2016 workshop in Zambia. You can buy the anthology here. The anthology is supplied as a print ready pdf to eight African co-publishers.

Related stories:

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Image by David Harrison, courtesy of Mail and Guardian

Goosebump coast: Diane Awerbuck reviews Tjieng Tjang Tjerries by Jolyn Phillips

Jolyn Phillips captures the spirit of “Cannery Row” in her stories about a local fishing dorp, writes Diane Awerbuck for the Sunday Times

Tjieng Tjang Tjerries and other storiesTjieng Tjang Tjerries and other stories
Jolyn Phillips (Modjaji Books)

Jolyn Phillips’s spine must be sore. If her debut collection Tjieng Tjang Tjerries and other stories is even a quarter true, there is a lot resting on her shoulders. She has taken on the task of recording the language, loves and losses of the people of the depressed fishing town of Gansbaai — not unlike her character Mollie in “The Fire”, who has assigned herself the role of soul guide to the newly dead.

Gansbaai being the perverse place it is, not all the deceased are ready to move on, and this works as a metaphor for the state of the country, too. Some shades prefer to hole up in a half-built house, smoking dagga: “Sakie and Delie cannot be taken over because when Mollie tried to take them to Holy Ghost they were too drunk and Holy Ghost banished them.”

The spirits are unrepentant. “There is fokkol of starting over man. Forget about it. We are already dead.”

But Phillips does make a case for starting over, with a lustiness and tenacity that energises her writing. Phillips makes no apologies for the way that geography and industry throw people together and keep them rubbing along, each thinking that her story is a secret from her neighbour. In this collection there is neither the false romance of poverty nor pity for its depredations, which — hallelujah! — puts Tjieng Tjang Tjerries more in a class with Steinbeck’s Cannery Row than Rive’s Buckingham Palace, District Six.

She fathoms the old story of addiction and apathy, but goes beyond that. The themes centre on responsibility and fidelity, mostly for the female characters, who bear the brunt of social inequality. Every character is at some crossroads or some revelation: what they do after their discoveries is what matters.

Phillips’s compassion for her characters shines through the sea mist. Even the pieces that are sketches rather than fully developed stories are exasperated but affectionate: consider “Lelik”, a story ostensibly about a dog that turns out to be about a man. He’s drunk so much that he has “forgotten how to be human”.

Phillips’s dialogue feels real but will annoy purists. She trots out cheerfully brutal idioms: (childbirth is “in like ’n piesang; out like ’n pynappel”) but also writes with a clear lyricism that seems to be plain speaking but is actually a careful weaving of tone and place. It slips a couple of times into caricature. Her writing otherwise soars and swoops, from the barely contained hysteria of the soap opera “Secrets” to the quiet, desperate strength of “The Fisherman”, when a girl tries to take over her father’s place on the boats.

Look out for Tjieng Tjang Tjerries and other stories, with its fantastic, ambiguous cover, its peculiarly dire proofreading, and its sense that something new and lovely is being made.

Related links:


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Don't miss the 2016 Short Sharp Stories Awards at the National Arts Festival

Invitation to the launch of Die Laughing


Adults OnlyBloody SatisfiedIncredible Journey

You are invited to the 2016 Short Sharp Stories Awards, an annual short story competition made possible by the National Arts Festival.

Come and celebrate the launch of Die Laughing at the Eden Grove Lecture Complex at Rhodes University on Wednesday, 6 July, at 11 AM.

Joanne Hichens will be in conversation with Nick Mulgrew and the contributors of Die Laughing, which includes a Foreword by Evita Bezuidenhout and Introduction by Darrel Bristow-Bovey. The judges for this year’s competition were Ken Barris, Karina Szczurek and Karabo Kgoleng.

See you there!

Event Details

  • Date: Wednesday, 6 July 2016
  • Time: 11:00 AM
  • Venue: Rhodes University
    Eden Grove Lecture Complex
    Drosty Road
    Grahamstown | Map
  • Speakers: Joanne Hichens and Nick Mulgrew

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