Caine Prize Winner: Literature Is Not A Competitive Sport

July 9, 2015 - table lamp

Namwali Serpell, this year's leader of a Caine Prize.i

Namwali Serpell, this year’s leader of a Caine Prize.

Courtesy of a Caine Prize for African Writing


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Courtesy of a Caine Prize for African Writing

Namwali Serpell, this year's leader of a Caine Prize.

Namwali Serpell, this year’s leader of a Caine Prize.

Courtesy of a Caine Prize for African Writing

Newly named Caine Prize leader Namwali Serpell says that her “act of mutiny” — as she calls it — was premeditated.

The literary prize, awarded annually to only one African author for a brief story created in English, comes with a financial prerogative — only over $15,000. The Zambian author says she’d dreamed adult her mutiny days before a Monday ceremony: If she should win, she’d separate that sum with her associate nominees.

“It’s such a smashing organisation of people, such a cohesive organisation of writers,” she says in an talk with NPR. “And it only felt uncanny and unhappy that we were now going to be pitted opposite any other in some kind of dispute royal. we think, for a writers obviously, literature’s not a rival sport.”

Serpell, 34, won this year’s esteem for “The Sack” — a story that’s as pointed as it is blunt, claustrophobia and bewail cinching adult around a reader’s ears as a tract shifts and twists in small ways. And while a author competence not take home a incomparable purse than a other shortlisters, she does have something else to uncover for herself: an loquacious reference from a award’s lead judge.

Serpell stands beside her associate shortlisted writers: (left to right) Masande Ntshanga, F.T. Kola, Elnathan John and Segun Afolabi.i

Serpell stands beside her associate shortlisted writers: (left to right) Masande Ntshanga, F.T. Kola, Elnathan John and Segun Afolabi.

/Courtesy of a Caine Prize for African Writing


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/Courtesy of a Caine Prize for African Writing

Serpell stands beside her associate shortlisted writers: (left to right) Masande Ntshanga, F.T. Kola, Elnathan John and Segun Afolabi.

Serpell stands beside her associate shortlisted writers: (left to right) Masande Ntshanga, F.T. Kola, Elnathan John and Segun Afolabi.

/Courtesy of a Caine Prize for African Writing

“It yields uninformed definition with each reading,” says row president Zoe Wicomb in a statement. “Formally innovative, stylistically stunning, vivid and puzzling in a effects.”

“I was a bit shocked,” says Serpell, recalling her greeting during a rite when she was named a winner. Her family had been following along in Lusaka, Zambia — by a heat of cellphones and candlelight, as it turns out, given there had been a trance in a area. “I was mostly perplexing to keep it together prolonged adequate to do my acceptance speech.”

Serpell left Lusaka when she was still young, withdrawal a city with her family during age 9. Despite returning for a year in her teens, Serpell has spent most of her life in a U.S. — study novel during Harvard and Yale, and now training a theme during a University of California, Berkeley. Though she lives in California, she has visited Lusaka each year given her family returned in 2002.

The place she comes behind to isn’t accurately a same as a one she left.

“Gertrude Stein is famous for carrying pronounced about Oakland, Calif.: ‘There’s no there there.’ But what she’s indeed referring to is that her childhood home had burnt down, and when she went to where it used to be, she pronounced there’s no there there,” says Serpell.

“Sometimes we feel that approach when we go home.”

Dirt roads she once step with friends have been paved, trade clogs a streets as it never had before, and even on a broader scale, an liquid of Chinese immigration and investment has rendered a city radically altered from her childhood.

And yet, during times she’s approaching to answer for this childhood home she now intermittently visits, or some-more remarkably, for a novel of an whole continent — and no some-more so than in weeks like these.

“None of us unequivocally like being asked a question, ‘Why are we an African writer?’ ” she says of herself and her associate shortlisters. “Or ‘Are we an African writer?’ Or, ‘What is Africa and life itself?’ But we’ve been removing these all week.”

The questions, in some ways, are unique to a esteem itself. Named for British enthusiast Sir Michael Harris Caine (no, not that Sir Michael Caine) and awarded in Oxford University’s Bodleian Library, a Caine Prize has spasmodic attracted criticism — even from past winners — alternately for not representing a best of African writing, or for being approaching to paint too much. As a esteem innate on an island, it faces a formidable charge of noticing only one story from an whole continent.

As another hopeful for this year’s prize, Elnathan John, put a matter in The Guardian final week: “I would cite not to be a orator during all. Whether for Africa or African writing.”

“I consider that tragedy is concurred by both a writers shortlisted and a Caine Prize itself. It’s also a tragedy that, we have to admit, is kind of unique to who we am given my father is British of origin,” Serpell says. “I consider that kind of dispute inside can be a source of criticism, yet it can also be a source of prolific and engaging clashes.”

Though, she says, one step toward solution some of these problems is by simply carrying some-more literary prizes on a continent. She lists several collectives and magazines — like South Africa’s Chimurenga and Kenya’s Kwani? — as explanation of a edition attention that’s already abounding from a belligerent up.

“Having a esteem subsequent to a Caine Prize rather than one to excommunicate it, we think, would be a ideal.”

For now, though, she’s anxious with a esteem — and, by laying down her newly warranted winnings, bursting them adult and abating a duel between writers, she says she’s also holding stairs toward that change herself.

That and, well, also formulating a small word plan.

“I keep joking to a other shortlisted writers that if I’m ever unemployed,” she laughs, “I will be job them.”

Read an mention of “The Sack,” a Caine Prize-winning story, below. And review a full thing here.

source ⦿ http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/07/08/421134703/caine-prize-winner-literature-is-not-a-competitive-sport

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