Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 5,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

 

download (13)

Photo credit: Herby Sachs via Caineprize.com

Last week, Caineprize.com published an essay by Rotimi Babatunde detailing his travel to Germany for a series of workshops centered around his 2012 Caine Prize-winning story “Bombay’s Republic.”

The story, one of the very finest to have been shortlisted for the prize, follows an adventurous man who volunteers to fight for the British in South Asia during World War II but who comes to a solid realization of the equal humanity of the races and subsequently returns home to humorously found his own independent republic.

Babatunde’s essay is titled “Out of Europe: Traveling with the Caine Prize in Germany” and is delivered in the second-person, in the sharp, observant prose we have come to associate with his writing. But it is his command of history, his choice of references, that elevates this from an insightful travel piece to a searing revisitation of historical ironies.

The piece begins in an Istanbul airport where three people with lingual barriers are temporarily stranded: a Turk, a German, and a Nigerian—Babatunde himself. A scene that would make a sumptuous point of departure for an interrogation of culture and the reversals of history.

So the Turk, the German and the Nigerian, transiting through Istanbul from different places but, like Chaucer’s medieval pilgrims, compelled into instant comradeship by a common purpose, begin the long hunt for the relevant ticketing desk. The Turk, clutching several rolls of duty-free cigarettes, is in the lead, the three of you sweeping briskly through the self-replicating vastness of that airport for what seemed an eternity before the ticketing desk is finally located.

“Bombay’s Republic” was translated into German by Thomas Bruckner—who has also translated Ngugi and Helon Habila—and published as a standalone piece. Some German institutions organized events to discuss the story and Babatunde locates irony in this.

Out of Europe comes something new, to tweak the motto of the Caine Prize. These cultural organisations include Stimmen Afrikas/Allerwelthaus in Cologne. The MA in Translation programme of the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf. Die Afrika Kooperative in Münster. And the Goethe Institut, Lagos. That is why you’re heading to Germany, which has now become a bastion of liberalism in Europe despite its own right-wing issues, and why you’re in transit through Istanbul.

Babatunde offers insight into the workshops, especially on the delicate issue of translation.

After the preliminaries, the three-person team handling the translation into German, for the second time, of ‘Bombay’s Republic’ begin interrogating the story. The session lasts three hours. It is a rewarding experience. The questions raised by the team communicate their deep engagement with the story. In response to a comment about one of your long sentences, you voice out your assumption that such a sentence would be regular in German, which you know for its long sentences and word concatenations. Thomas Brückner says that tendency in the language makes long sentences written originally in another language even longer when translated into German.

Three paragraphs later, Babatunde delivers this:

It is a valid perspective to see the Second World War as a case of Germany trying to do to Europe what Europe, including Germany, had been doing to people in Africa and elsewhere for many centuries before the war.

Read the full piece HERE.

Tags: , , , ,

About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, journalist, & Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. The recipient of the inaugural The Future Awards Prize for Literature in 2019, he is a judge for The Gerald Kraak Prize and was a judge for The Morland Writing Scholarship in 2019. He is Nonfiction Editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is Curator at The Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His work in queer equality advocacy in literature has been profiled in Literary Hub. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He has an M.A. in African Studies and a combined honours B.A. in History & International Studies/English & Literary Studies, both from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He taught English in a private Nigerian university. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Welcome to Brittle Paper, your go-to site for African writing and literary culture. We bring you all the latest news and juicy updates on publications, authors, events, prizes, and lifestyle. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@brittlepaper) and sign up for our "I love African Literature" newsletter.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."

Archives

Dinaw Mengestu, Mia Couto, Laila Lalami & Others Featured in The Decameron Project, a Collection of COVID-19 Inspired Stories

Decameron

If there’s one thing we know for sure about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that it will mark our imaginations […]

What Does Tragedy Have to do With Grief? — Prof. Ato Quayson on a New Episode of Critics.Reading.Writing

Professor Ato Quayson YouTube Channel Critic, Reading, Writing (1)

The first episode of Professor Ato Quayson’s youtube show is up! Ato Quayson is a Professor of English at Stanford […]

Saara El-Arifi’s Signs 2 Six-Figure Deals for Her Debut Novel The Final Strife

Saara El-Arifi's The Final Strife Double Six-Figure Deals

Sudanese-Arab-Ghanaian-British author Saara El-Arifi won big last week. Her debut novel The Final Strife landed a double six-figure deal in the […]

The Nigeria Prize for Difference and Diversity Announces Judges and Advisory Council

The Nigeria Prize for Difference and Diversity Announces Judges and Advisory Council (3)

The Nigeria Prize for Difference and Diversity has announced the judges for the inaugural award and the advisory board. The […]

BBC 4 to Broadcast Reading of Abi Daré’s The Girl with the Louding Voice

BBC 4 to Broadcast The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré

Abi Daré’s The Girl with the Louding Voice will be narrated on BBC 4 by actress Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo. The novel […]

The 2021 Aspen Words Literary Prize is Now Open for Entry

Apply for the 2021 Aspen Words Literary Prize

The Aspen Words Literary Prize is open for entry as of today. The $35,000 prize annually rewards an “influential work […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.