What a great way to end the year! The Etisalat Prize for Literature shortlist is out! And, as usual, there are a few surprises.
The Etisalat Prize for Literature is the only prize designed solely to recognize debut African fiction writers. In just three years of being in existence, it has become a cultural force in the global literary landscape.
Judges Ato Quayson, Zukiswa Wanner, and Molara Wood whittled down the longlist of 9 names. And here are the lucky shortlistees:
- Fiston Mwanza Mujila (Democratic Republic of Congo) – Tram 83 (Deep Vellum)
- Penny Busetto (South Africa) – The Story of Anna P, as Told by Herself (Jacana Media)
- Rehana Rossouw (South Africa) – What Will People Say? (Jacana Media)
From here on, all three will battle it out for the 15,000 pound prize.
All through last week, there were all kinds of conjectures about who would make the shortlist. But the judges have now spoken, and there are a few things that are worth noting about their choice.
Expectations were high for Chigozie Obioma’s Fishermen. His fans would definitely wonder why he is not on the shortlist.
Mujila’s brilliant novel is still in the running. If he wins, it will be the first for a translated novel. Tram 83 was originally written in French. The English translation was published in the US by Deep Vellum.
This year, it looks like experimental novels are getting all the love. Tram 83 and The Story of Anna P, and, to some extent What Will People Say, are texts that push the boundaries on style, language, and form. They are not your typical realist or domestic fiction. They explore unconventional approaches to storytelling and, therefore, compel the audience to read differently.
As Wood puts it, “The shortlisted books challenge ready notions about new writing from Africa. They expand the field of literary engagement with themes of nationhood and the self. These are highly original voices whose works will charm and astonish new readers, through the Etisalat Prize for Literature, and deservedly so.”
Congrats to all Mujila, Busetto, and Rossouw! We wish you all best.