Bushra al-Fadil has won the 2017 Caine Prize for African Writing, described as Africa’s leading literary award, for his short story entitled “The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away”, translated by Max Shmookler, published in The Book of Khartoum – A City in Short Fiction (Comma Press, UK. 2016). The Chair of Judges, Nii Ayikwei Parkes, announced Bushra al-Fadil as the winner of the £10,000 prize at an award dinner this evening (Monday, 3 July) held for the first time in Senate House, London, in partnership with SOAS as part of their centenary celebrations. As a translated story, the prize money will be split – with £7,000 going to Bushra and £3,000 to the translator, Max Shmookler.
“The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away” vividly describes life in a bustling market through the eyes of the narrator, who becomes entranced by a beautiful woman he sees there one day. After a series of brief encounters, tragedy unexpectedly befalls the woman and her young female companion.
Nii Ayikwei Parkes praised the story, saying, “the winning story is one that explores through metaphor and an altered, inventive mode of perception – including, for the first time in the Caine Prize, illustration – the allure of, and relentless threats to freedom. Rooted in a mix of classical traditions as well as the vernacular contexts of its location, Bushra al-Fadil’s “The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away”, is at once a very modern exploration of how assaulted from all sides and unsupported by those we would turn to for solace we can became mentally exiled in our own lands, edging in to a fantasy existence where we seek to cling to a sort of freedom until ultimately we slip into physical exile.”
Bushra al-Fadil is a Sudanese writer living in Saudi Arabia. His most recent collection Above a City’s Sky was published in 2012, the same year Bushra won the al-Tayeb Salih Short Story Award. Bushra holds a PhD in Russian language and literature.
Bushra was joined on the 2017 shortlist by:
- Lesley Nneka Arimah (Nigeria) for ‘Who Will Greet You At Home’ published in The New Yorker (USA. 2015)
- Read ‘Who Will Greet You At Home’
- Chikodili Emelumadu (Nigeria) for ‘Bush Baby’ published in African Monsters, eds. Margarét Helgadóttir and Jo Thomas (Fox Spirit Books, UK. 2015)
- Read ‘Bush Baby’
- Arinze Ifeakandu (Nigeria) for ‘God’s Children Are Little Broken Things’ published in A Public Space 24 (A Public Space Literary Projects Inc., USA. 2016)
- Magogodi oaMphela Makhene (South Africa) for ‘The Virus’ published in The Harvard Review 49 (Houghton Library Harvard University, USA. 2016)
- Read ‘The Virus’
The panel of judges was chaired by Nii Ayikwei Parkes – member of the Caine Prize Council and Director of the Ama Ata Aidoo Centre for Creative Writing at the African University College of Communications in Accra, the first of its kind in West Africa. He is the author of the novel Tail of the Blue Bird (Jonathan Cape, UK. 2009) which was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 2010.
Alongside Nii on the panel of judges are: Chair of the English Department at Georgetown University, Professor Ricardo Ortiz; Libyan author and human rights campaigner, Ghazi Gheblawi; distinguished African literary scholar, Dr Ranka Primorac; and 2007 Caine Prize winner, Monica Arac de Nyeko.
As in previous years, the winner of the Caine Prize will be given an opportunity to take up residence at Georgetown University at the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice. The winner will also be invited to speak at the Library of Congress. Each shortlisted writer receives £500, and Max Shmookler, translator of Bushra al-Fadil’s shortlisted story (originally written in Arabic) receives £250. 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 South African writer Lidudumalingani for his story “Memories We Lost” from Incredible Journey: Stories That Move You (Burnet Media, South Africa. 2015). Lidudumalingani has since gone on to win a Miles Morland Scholarship and is currently writing his debut novel, Let Your Children Name Themselves.
The New Internationalist 2017 anthology, The Goddess of Mtwara and other stories, is now published and it includes all of the shortlisted stories along with 11 other short stories written at the Caine Prize 2017 workshop in Tanzania. You can buy the anthology at https://newint.org/books/fiction/caine-prize-2017/. The anthology is also available from 11 African co-publishers who receive the print ready PDF free of charge.
Notes to Editors
About the Caine Prize
The Caine Prize, awarded annually for African creative writing, is named after the late Sir Michael Caine, former Chairman of Booker plc and Chairman of the Booker Prize management committee for nearly 25 years.
The Prize is awarded for a short story by an African writer published in English (indicative length 3,000 to 10,000 words). An African writer is taken to mean someone who was born in Africa, or who is a national of an African country, or who has a parent who is African by birth or nationality.
The African winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Wole Soyinka and J M Coetzee, are Patrons of The Caine Prize. Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne is President of the Council, Ben Okri OBE is Vice President, Dr Delia Jarrett-Macauley is the Chair, Adam Freudenheim is the Deputy Chairperson and Dr Lizzy Attree is the Director.
Full biographies of the shortlistees are available at http://caineprize.com/2017-shortlist/.
Full biographies of the 2017 judges are available at http://caineprize.com/2017-judges/.
This year 148 short stories from writers representing 22 African countries were received and entered into the 2017 Caine Prize before they were whittled down to the final 5. The judges made their final decision on the winner today.
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), Kenyan Okwiri Oduor (2014), Zambian Namwali Serpell (2015), and South African Lidudumalingani (2016).
The five shortlisted stories, alongside stories written at Caine Prize workshop held in Tanzania in March 2017, are published annually by New Internationalist (UK), Interlink Publishing (USA), Jacana Media (South Africa), LanternBooks (United States), Kwani? (Kenya), Sub-Saharan Publishers (Ghana), FEMRITE (Uganda), ‘amaBooks (Zimbabwe), Mkuki na Nyota (Tanzania), Redsea Cultural Foundation (Somalia and Somaliland), Gadsen Publishers (Zambia), Huza Press (Rwanda), Books are available from the publishers or from the Africa Book Centre, African Books Collective or Amazon.
The Caine Prize is principally supported by The Oppenheimer Memorial Trust, The Miles Morland Foundation, The Carnegie Corporation, the Booker Prize Foundation, Sigrid Rausing & Eric Abraham, The Wyfold Charitable Trust, the Royal Over-Seas League and John and Judy Niepold. Other funders and partners include, The British Council, Georgetown University (USA), The Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice, The van Agtmael Family Charitable Fund, Rupert and Clare McCammon, Adam and Victoria Freudenheim, Arindam Bhattacherjee, Phillip Ihenacho and other generous donors.
Special thanks also go to the Centre of African Studies and SOAS, University of London, for supporting this year’s award dinner, held for the first time in London.