Jurassic London has shared an excerpt with Books LIVE from its new short story collection Irregularity, edited by Jared Shurin, which features stories by Richard de Nooy and Henrietta Rose-Innes.
Irregularity is published to coincide with current exhibitions at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London; one focused on a quest for longitude at sea, and a steampunk show at the Royal Observatory.
Irregularity is about the tension between order and chaos in the 17th and 18th centuries. Men and women from all walks of life dedicated themselves to questioning, investigating, classifying and ordering the natural world. They promoted scientific thought, skepticism and intellectual rigour in the face of superstition, intolerance and abuses of power. These brave thinkers dedicated themselves and their lives to the idea that the world followed rules that human endeavour could uncover … but what if they were wrong?
Read the two excerpts, the first from “Animalia Paradoxa”, by Rose-Innes, and the second from De Nooy’s “The Heart of Aris Kindt”:
“Animalia Paradoxa” by Henrietta Rose-Innes
“In Cap d’Afrique,” I tell Michel, “the cattle are more beautiful than the French varieties. Great spreading horns. Red or grey, or speckled.”
Michel grunts. He watches me with suspicion as I rearrange the bones on the long table in the Countess’s orangery.
Through the glass doors and the dome above me, I can see bats flitting in the evening sky. A few lamps burn in the upper rooms of the chateau across the terrace. The Countess is no longer here. After the recent troubles in Paris, she left with her retinue for the countryside, perhaps even for another country. I did not speak with her before she departed. Perhaps I am simply shunned. Perhaps she is seeing other suitors, charlatans selling her the usual curiosities: misshapen bears, dull tableaux of common birds, amusing scenes of mice and foxes.
It is a cool autumn evening, but inside the orangery the weather is warm, even tropical. For a moment the expanse of glass makes me feel observed, as if I am placed here for display.
Michel is very slow, and has no sympathy for the material. He is an old village soul, accustomed to the creatures of the old world. He knows how they are put together: four feet, two horns, milk below.
“This cannot be just one animal,” he says. He is laying out the long-bones, and indeed there seem to be too many of them, and oddly sized. Everything is in a sorry state. Some of the more delicate items have crumbled to dust in the sea-chests.
“Linnaeus himself does not account for all the creatures of the world,” I tell him. “Not of Africa.”
Michel shrugs, and lets a femur clatter to the table. “Monsieur,” he says. “I am leaving now. You should go too: it is not safe.”
But I cannot go, of course I cannot, not when I am so close. Late at night in the lamplit orangery I work on, fitting femur to radius, long bones to small. Boldness, I think, boldness and vision are needed here. But the bones will not do my bidding. They do not match up. They do not create a possible animal.
The streaks of light fade from the sky; it is that slow cooling of the day, so different to nightfall in southern climes.
I miss the boy’s quick hands, quick eyes.
I remember the shape of his head. Jacques, Jakkals. He was a thin child, dressed in nothing but ragged sailor’s trousers, held up by twine and rolled to the knee. Hard-soled feet, skin tight over ribs and shoulder-blades. All of him shades of earth and ochre, but flashed with white, like the belly of a springbok as it leaps away. Ostrich-eggshell beads at his neck, teeth like Sèvres porcelain. And that round head, close-shorn. One could imagine the bone beneath. When I first saw him, tagging behind as our party struck north from the Cape, I thought: there are men in France who would like that cranium in their collection. A pretty piece to cup in the palm.
Shadows gutter on the ceiling as the last of the lamp-oil runs out. Outside I see points of light and at first I think they are stars, burning low to the ground: the sky turned upside down. But no. They are flames, moving up the hill from the village, torches lighting faces in the crowd. The voices build.
The last time I saw Jacques his skull was crushed on one side, the front teeth gone, face caked with blood and dust.
I imagine he was buried with the usual native rites. Sitting upright, as I have heard it is done, in the old hide blanket, with nothing to mark the place but a small pile of stones. The vitreous black stones you find there in the north, in that dry country.
Cape of Good Hope
Venter was a chancer from the start. I met him on the church square; he was selling skins and ivory. With what was left of the Countess’s money, I was procuring oxen, muskets, what men I could afford.
“I hear you’re coming north,” he said, his face shadowed by a leather brim. “I hear you’re looking for animals.”
“Special animals,” I nodded. “Rare ones.” I had been in the Cape a month by then, and my own rough Dutch was improving.
“Visit with us,” he said. “We have a hell of an animal for you.”
“Ah. And what kind might that be?”
I was not overly excited. Already I had received several offers of specimens. There had been enough European adventurers in these parts for the locals to imagine they knew what we sought. On the docks, a hunter had thrust a brace of speckled fowl at me, their bodies stinking in the heat. In a tavern, a wrinkled prospector had produced a pink crystal, its facets glinting in the candlelight. But the Countess wished for something she had not seen before. The foot of a rhinoceros, a pretty shell — these would not be enough. One of the slave-dealers had promised more exotic sights, native girls with curious anatomies, but this, too, I had refused. I was looking for something spectacular, something to cause a sensation; but not of that kind.
“It’s big,” said Venter.
“Like an elephant? An ostrich?” I said. “Perhaps a whale?”
“All of those things,” he said, and tilted his head so that his pale eyes caught the sun, colour piercing the hues of hide and roughspun cloth. He was a handsome man, tall and with a strong jaw under his yellow beard, grown very full as is the habit of the farmers here. “It’s all of those things, God help us.”
I tried not to smile at his ignorance. “Come now, it must be one thing or the other. Fish or fowl.”
He shrugged. “It flies, it runs. Here,” he said, leaning forward and pulling off his hat. A waft of sweat, a herbal tang, the coppery hair compressed in a ring. “That is its skin.”
I did not wish to touch the greasy hat, but he pushed it into my hands, pointing at the hide band. Spotted, greyish yellow. It might have been hyena fur, or harbour rat for all I knew.
“Keep it.” He spat his tobacco into the dust. “You are welcome on my land. Ask for Venter. Up north the people know me.
“The Heart of Aris Kindt” by Richard de Nooy
“Who stitched him up, sir?”
“The preparator. He was at work when I came in.”
“But we …”
“They took the heart, Ferdinand, and the rest of his innards.”
“There will be no incision in our painting.”
“But that’s preposterous, sir!”
“Tulp’s letter is on the table.”
The young apprentice removes his cloak and rubs his hands until they squeak and tingle. January’s stinging chill draws deeper into his bones as he circles the naked cadaver of Aris Kindt. The callous morning light falling from the high windows of the Theatrum Anatomicum lends the dead man’s skin a translucent sheen that leaves no blemish undisguised. Hurried sutures have raised an angry, Y-shaped seam upon the dead man’s abdomen.
The young apprentice bows his head and mumbles a brief prayer before unfolding the surgeon’s letter with his winter-clumsy fingers.
Amsterdam, 18th Day of January 1632
It is with some regret that, after due consultation with my esteemed peers, we have decided that we would prefer to see the torso depicted unopened, as it detracts from the overall composition and may cause consternation among our guests, particularly emissaries of the Church, who might question such a bold display of our enquiry into God’s intentions and creative genius. We assure you that our decision has nothing whatsoever to do with the manner in which the organs have been rendered, as this was of the high standard that prompted us to commission you in first instance. Should you feel that our decision has necessitated additional effort on your part, we would like to assure you that we are already considering future commissions that we would almost certainly leave in your good hands.
Nicolaes Tulp, Praelector Chirurgic et Anatomie
“He makes no mention of the heart, sir!”
“Indeed, Ferdinand, indeed.”
“Are these men of science, sir?”
“Among the foremost, Ferdinand, but our friend here evidently confounded their principles.”
“This is absurd. First the hand and now this!”
“The client is king, Ferdinand. Let me hear you say it.”
“The client is a meddlesome tyrant, sir. Why would they do such a thing?”
“Ours not to reason why, Ferdinand.”
“Whatever crimes he may have committed, sir, this man, too, is a creature of God and it is our duty as artists to celebrate the glory of His creation by rendering all of that creation as precisely as we can — alive or dead.”
“Of course, Ferdinand, but God does not pay our fee, and the surgeons have every reason to conciliate the emissaries of the Church. To work. We have a great deal to do. And our silent friend will not stay fresh for ever.”
“My father shall hear of this. The Guild of Surgeons in Dordrecht would never…”
“That would be imprudent, Ferdinand. Bear in mind that it will be our word, as humble artists, against that of two dozen surgeons, well versed in matters anatomical and very well connected with the city council, before a committee of their peers. And what might we hope to achieve, Ferdinand? Do we wish to cast a shadow of ill repute upon the city’s finest surgeon? Will it bring Aris Kindt back to life? A man hanged by the neck is dead, Ferdinand, even if he dies a second time.”
“Consider your career, Ferdinand, and at what expense it has been purchased. Your father’s investment must be recouped and I have mouths to feed. To work, young man, those details will not draw themselves.”
16th Day of January 1632
Master R and I today had the honour of attending the public dissection of Adriaan Adriaanszoon in the Theatrum Anatomicum at De Waag, presided over by Doctor Nicolaes Tulp, praelector of the Amsterdam Guild of Surgeons. It was truly a privilege to sit among the city’s most influential councillors and learned men to witness this rare event, which — as you know — takes place only once a year and is subject to the strictest protocol.
We were permitted to sit in the front row in order to make our preliminary sketches, which I did with immense discomfort, knowing that some of the city’s mightiest men were looking over my shoulder. This was further compounded by the unnerving butcher-shop scent of the dead man’s viscera, deftly laid bare by the Guild’s preparator, who stood constantly at Dr Tulp’s side, scalpel in hand like a Sword of Damocles. I am not ashamed to admit that I had to make a concerted effort to retain my dejeuner, which rumbled like an angry behemoth in my guts. Fortunately, I did not defile and embarrass myself. Instead, the experience redoubled my respect for surgeons such as yourself and Dr Tulp, who conducted his duties with immense grace and precision under such gruesome circumstances, all the while enlightening the audience with the most fascinating revelations regarding the workings of the human body.
The vision of Book Dash is so revolutionary, so boldly audacious, that it is hard to comprehend fully the scope of it upon a first hearing. One can be forgiven for raising an eyebrow at the notion of giving (yes, giving!) each South African child a hundred books by the age of five. On Mandela Day last week, this grand dream stepped closer to becoming reality when some 250 children at Jireh early education centre in Mitchell’s Plain each received three books, made by a team of volunteers. For some of the children, these books were the first they have ever owned.
Books by the big-hearted authors involved in Book Dash include:
Behind this project is a formidable trio of radical thinkers: Arthur Attwell, a Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow and award-winning publishing entrepreneur has an impressive track record as the founder of Paperight, Electric Book Works and Bettercare. He is also a poet and the author of the collection, Killing Time.
Senior manager at Paperight, Tarryn-Anne Anderson, is a talented short story writer who contributed to the Feast, Famine and Potluck anthology and an anthropologist by training. She is the community manager for Book Dash. Michelle Matthews, a publisher and award-winning writer, specialises in sustainability and corporate social investment. She is the managing editor of The CSI Handbook and the author of The Whole Food Almanac. With their feet planted firmly on the ground they envision an outcome with astronomical potential.
They want to see the publishing industry being shaken from its roots and predict that this can happen if the needs of the youngest reader are met as a priority. “This is how the future of publishing in South Africa is not only going to survive, but grow and flourish,” Attwell said.
It is widely believed that a range of interwoven social ills and contemporary crises can be avoided and solved by enhancing the cognitive skills and developing the child’s imagination by ensuring that a vigorous love of reading is instilled before children even get to school. But how can that happen in a society where the all too real constraints of poverty seem so overwhelming?
Book Dash’s solution is to make books freely available as downloads so that schools – or anybody who needs a free children’s book – can print them out on a standard photocopier. The cost of the books is reduced substantially to the expense of printing. All the expertise has been donated. No royalties are paid as books are created under the Creative Commons Attribution license.
Attwell also believes it is crucial to support fathers in the task of reading to their children. The logo on the back of each book depicts a father in an armchair holding a small child on his lap, reading from an open book.
The big push for this project took place just three weeks before the Mandela Day handout when a team of 40 industry professionals got together bright and early on a cold Saturday morning. Writers and artists brought their previously planned story ideas and sketches, channeling them through the various tools of the trade: tablets and paintbrushes, laptops and scanners.
The mood in the room was electric, as designers and editors tweaked and touched up the texts, authors consulted other authors, and images took shape, matching the narratives. By the end of the day ten new books existed that would soon be touched and held and loved by the children who hunger for stories. This staggering book-making marathon occurred on 28 June this year at the City of Cape Town’s Central Library, in a collaborative gesture of generosity, care and creativity.
“In essence,” says Attwell, “South African children need more books. However, books are prohibitively expensive for most families in this country, who struggle to put food on the table.” His way around this? Make them available for free! To that end, he wishes to see each child in the country owning 100 books before their sixth birthday. Yes, reader, your eyes do not deceive you. And laugh aloud if you must. But, Book Dash has started making this remarkable dream a reality.
“The cheapest books have no publisher – then the only cost is printing. So our participants do the work of publishers in a single day. After that, anyone can get print runs sponsored and put finished books into the hands of children,” says Attwell. Do the sums on that and some 600 million books are required to meet this ambitious goal. India’s Pratham Books and the African Storybook Project offered Attwell a way to refine his thinking and models on which to base Book Dash.
We believe every child should own a hundred books by the age of five. In South Africa, that means giving 600 million free books to children who could never afford to buy them. Every day we lose, more children grow up unable to read and write well, and to enjoy the worlds that books open up.
An integral part of this concept is the concept of ownership. According to Attwell, this means putting books into children’s hands. “Ownership should be sealed by writing the child’s name on the book-plate page. They must be able to collect many of their own books throughout their childhood,” he said.
Facilitated by Tarryn-Anne Anderson with Michelle Matthews hosting the event, ten teams each comprising a writer, illustrator and book designer, were plied first with coffee and muffins, then quiches and fruit, and later, wine and pasta. Each trio had a designated work space where the creative collaboration took place on the upper floor of the old drill hall. The intense focus required to produce a book in a day, the sharing of tasks between team member, and the convivial goodwill that spilled regularly into laughter was a profound experience.
The team of workers included Rachel Zadok, Candace di Talamo, Nick Mulgrew, Michele Fry, Amy Uzzell, Jennifer Jacobs, Tracy Lynn Chemaly, Robert McEwan, Sarah-Jane Williams, Paul Kennedy, James Woolley, Louise Gale, Liesl Jobson, Jesse Breytenbach, Andy Thesen, Sam Wilson, Michael Tymbios, Thomas Pepler, Maya Fowler, Katrin Coetzer, Damian Gibbs, Nicola Rijsdijk, Karen Lilje, Sam Scarborough, Kerry Saadien-Raad, Elsabé Milandri, Mathilde de Blois, Vianne Venter, Genevieve Terblanche and Lauren Rycroft.
The capable squad of editors who ensured that the texts were suitably age-appropriate comprised Marion Smallbones, Glynis Lloyd and Martha Evans. Videographer, Shaun Swingler, ensured that a visual record of the event took place. Archivist and storyteller, Kelsey Weins, explained the Creative Commons Attribution licence model and took care of the twitter feed on the day. Art director, Pete Bosman, worked with the illustrators and book designers, to advise, facilitate and ensure that the images worked within the specific parameters of the project.
Watch the video made by Shaun Swingler on the day of Book Dash, held at the City of Cape Town Central Library:
Three titles of the original ten books submitted on Book Dash day were selected for printing and distribution. A Fish and a Gift by Liesl Jobson, Jesse Breytenbach and Andy Thesen; Come Back, Cat! by Karen Lilje, Nicola Rijsdijk and Sam Scarborough was translated into Afrikaans by Maya Fowler as Kom Terug, Kat!; and Sleepy Mr Sloth was created by Paul Kennedy, Nick Mulgrew and Graham Paterson. Anybody may download the source and PDF files for children needing books.
Authors Liesl Jobson and Paul Kennedy assisted the Book Dash trio with the handout at the Educare Centre. On arriving the team was greeted by strains of The Wheels on the Bus and You Are My Sunshine. The children watched with quite some bemusement as box-carrying grownups passed their music ring and then set up stacks of books on tables in the hall. Soon enough the excitement grew as they queued for their books, then received them with their names inscribed. After tea and buns and a farewell song, the day’s programme resumed. Story time will never be the same again.
Despite their phenomenal intellectual capacity, multiple degrees and highly literary pedigree, the team of Attwell, Matthews and Anderson are softly spoken and unassuming face to face. In a focused, pragmatic and determined fashion they are quietly getting on with making a significant difference to the future of the children of South Africa. They are also seeking sponsorship. What better way of honouring the legacy of Nelson Mandela?
Liesl Jobson (@LieslJobson) tweeted live from both events using the hashtag #BookDash
Uitspraak: wortel met kritiek teen sommige stories
Jy hoef net na die lys skrywers op die voorblad te kyk om te weet dié boek sal die moeite werd wees – al het jy dalk al baie van dié stories destyds in die nou gestorwe reistydskrif mooiloop gelees.
Met die lees van die name van skrywers soos Abraham H. de Vries, Hennie Aucamp, Chris Barnard, André P. Brink, Riana Scheepers, Dolf van Niekerk, Elias P. Nel, Eben Venter en Koos Kombuis is die lus dadelik daar om die boek te vat en op ’n stil plek te gaan sit en lees.
Alert! Today, Books LIVE unveils the final list of short stories for the Twenty in 20 project, a Twenty Years of Freedom initiative whose aim is to identify the best South African short fiction published in English during the past two decades of democracy.
The project comprises a collaboration between Books LIVE, Short Story Day Africa and the Department of Arts and Culture.
Earlier this month, the four Twenty in 20 judges met to debate the longlist of fifty stories – generated by over 200 submissions from Books LIVE readers – and whittle it down to the final list of the twenty works of fiction that will stand as South Africa’s best since 1994. Over three hours, there was robust conversation and a bit of horsetrading, but it never came to fisticuffs (although at one point Queensbury rules were invoked!).
The result is a list that will serve as a baseline for future writers to aspire to; that will provide pleasure to readers for generations to come; and that will serve as a longstanding reference for South African literary posterity.
The chair of the judges, Mandla Langa, said, “This collection of short stories reflects the diversity that enriches our young democracy. It’s a smorgasbord of ideas to cater for any appetite.”
The Minister for Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, sent the following statement on the Twenty in 20 project to Books LIVE:
The Twenty in 20 project is one of our efforts to ensure that all sectors of our society are part of the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of our freedom and democracy.
We are making this announcement shortly after the passing of one of the most prolific short story writers who ever lived — Nadine Gordimer, South Africa’s first Nobel laureate in Literature. When the news of her passing started spreading like wildfire, I was reminded of the famous saying that, “When a big tree falls, the earth shakes.” Indeed, the sound of this giant’s fall reverberated across the globe.
South Africa has a rich tradition of short story writing. Over the years, we produced some of the most outstanding short story writers, including the likes of Gordimer, Bloke Modisane, Casey Motsisi, Bessie Head, Njabulo Ndebele, and many other notable literary voices. These are the giants on whose shoulders aspiring writers should stand. As we celebrate the solid foundation that these pathfinders have laid, we simultaneously try to cultivate a new generation of writers to continue with this glorious tradition while confronting the new challenges of our society.
The wide-ranging Twenty in 20 stories explore varied themes but have one thing in common: they are truly South African stories. Each one makes a unique contribution to our literary landscape.
Here then, without further ado, are the top twenty English short stories of South Africa’s democracy (note you can scroll within the document – also available here – to see the complete list details), organised alphabetically by the author’s surname:
Congratulations to the judges on creating a fine, final Twenty in 20 list.
As project convener, Your Correspondent would like to extend heartfelt thanks to Short Story Day Africa for its untiring work in creating the formal longlist, which has already caused an appropriate degree of literary commotion. I’d also like to thank Mandla Langa for his steady chairmanship during the awards process; and to doubly thank him, Karabo Kgoleng, Mtutuzeli Matshoba and Fiona Snyckers for paying such considered attention to such a diverse body of work.
Project process and timeline
Here is the remaining key date of the Twenty in 20 short story project:
September: The Twenty in 20 compilation of short stories is launched as a new compilation at National Book Week.
About the Twenty in 20 judges
Mandla Langa (Chair) was born in Durban and studied at the University of Fort Hare in Alice, Eastern Cape province. He left Fort Hare after playing an active role in student uprisings in 1972. He went into exile in 1976, and lived in countries such as Lesotho, Mozambique, Angola, Zambia, Hungary and the United Kingdom. In 1980 he won the Pan African DRUM Magazine story contest and in 1991 he was awarded the Arts Council of England bursary. His latest book, The Lost Colours of the Chameleon (2010) was shortlisted for the prestigious Sunday Times Fiction Prize and won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book – Africa Region. In 2007 he was awarded the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver.
Karabo Kgoleng is a South African arts journalist and broadcaster with a decade’s experience in the fields of print and radio. She is currently producing a television documentary on post revolution identities while expanding into multimedia arts journalism and community arts. She is a recipient of the South African Literary Award for journalism, previously featured in the Mail & Guardian Book of South African Women for promoting the arts in the media and is a former Mail & Guardian 200 Young South Africans honoree. Karabo is on the board of the Trevor Huddleston Memorial Centre. She is based in Johannesburg.
Mtutuzeli Matshoba is a founder member of the Staffrider literary and arts journal, short story writer, film script writer and script editor. Matshoba is among South Africa’s select literary activists who through their writing – and despite the draconian censorship system of the 70 and 80s – were able to address social problems caused by racial discrimination in all areas of South African life. His collection of short stories on urban black experiences in the 70s, Call Me Not A Man was published in 1978 and followed by Seeds of War, a novella on forced removals that won the Southern African English Academy Award for Creative Writing in 1980.
Fiona Snyckers studied English Literature at Rhodes University and the University of the Witwatersrand. She is the author of the Trinity series of novels, and the Sisterz series of mobile novels. She has published numerous short stories in magazines and collections. She reviews books for The Times and blogs on the Mail & Guardian‘s Thought Leader and Women platforms. She lives in Johannesburg with her family.
About the project partners
The Department of Arts and Culture was established to support, develop and protect the arts, culture and heritage of South Africa. It is a key driver of the South Africa government’s Twenty Years of Freedom programme of activities.
Books LIVE was founded in 2006 and has grown into South Africa’s top web portal for local book and publishing news. It is part of the Times Media LIVE group of websites, which comprise a division of Times Media (Pty) Ltd.
Short Story Day Africa is a non-profit organisation dedicated to bringing together writers, readers, booksellers, publishers, teachers and school children to write, read, workshop and discuss stories – and foster the love of reading and writing African fiction. Its debut publication of short stories, Feast, Famine or Potluck saw two stories shortlisted for the prestigious Caine Prize for African Literature.
Earlier this month Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho’s debut novel, The Violent Gestures of Life, was published by UKZN Press. In 2011 Mukwevho published a collection of short stories titled A Traumatic Revenge, from which Ground Up have shared an excerpt.
Brent Meersman explains that Mukwevho spent 11 years in prison and that it was during this time that he developed his writing skills and wrote the stories in the collection. “These are highly readable, clearly told stories. They are also moral tales with a deep sense of irony and the occasional sardonic twist,” Meersman writes.
Read the excerpt from A Traumatic Revenge:
The moment we bumped from the main road onto the rutted, dusty village one everywhere looked deserted. The air, slipping in through the wound-down windows, felt cool and pleasant. At the end of the first column of fenced yards, we turned left. Right in front of us in the middle of the road, two women were brawling and struggling against each other over a package. When we drew closer we stopped.
“It’s mine!” “No. It’s, is mine!”
“You promised we will share – go half and half?” yelled the other, tugging the package. “What’s up with you?”
Okwiri Oduor spoke to Books LIVE about winning the 2014 Caine Prize for African Writing for her story “My Father’s Head”.
Joining Oduor on the shortlist were Billy Kahora (Kenya), Efemia Chela (Ghana, Zambia), Tendai Huchu (Zimbabwe) and our very own Diane Awerbuck.
“My Father’s Head” originally appeared in Short Story Day Africa‘s collection, Feast, Famine and Potluck, as did Chela’s shortlisted story “Chicken”.
Oduor, the third Kenyan to take the prize, after Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor in 2003 and Binyavanga Wainaina in 2002, receives £10 000 prize money, as well as the opportunity to take up a month’s residency at Georgetown University, as a Writer-in-Residence at the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice.
Oduor spoke to Books LIVE about her favourite authors, the best part about being a writer, and where the inspiration for “My Father’s Head” came from.
Congratulations on winning the Caine Prize! How does it feel to join that illustrious list?
Okwiri Oduor: Thank you. It is such an honour to have been recognised in this manner, to be given this incredible gift.
Are you going to take up the residency at Georgetown University?
Yes. I look forward to the experience.
The Caine Prize is affectionately known as “the African Booker”. What aspects of your writing – if any – do you see as specifically African?
There is no checklist. I am not too keen to take part in the clamour for categorisation. What I want to do is to tell a good story, that is all.
How did the idea for “My Father’s Head” hit you?
I left home and felt deeply sad and lonely when I realised I was an adult. I was grieving my childhood.
How long did it take you to write the story? Did you feel unusually inspired, or was it more challenging than usual to complete?
I cannot remember how long it took. My average is usually a couple of weeks. Each story is unique and has its own peculiar set of challenges. In that way, I cannot compare it to anything.
What’s your favourite part of writing?
Getting lost in another world. Embodying my characters. Forgetting myself, feeling, seeing, tasting things as my characters do.
Who are your literary influences?
Well, I always found that a difficult question. I will tell you who my favourite writers are, and then perhaps you can make up your mind about whether or not they influence me: Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, Jamaica Kincaid, and Edwidge Danticat.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on a novel.
Image courtesy of David Fleming