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A master of the short story: Petina Gappah. Photo credit: Financial Times.

To mark its 90th anniversary in 2019, UK publishing house Faber & Faber has announced that it will reissue short stories by some of its most celebrated authors whom it has described as “masters of the short story form at work in a range of genres and styles.” Among said authors is Zimbabwean writer and lawyer Petina Gappah, who debuted in 2008 with An Elegy for Easterly, the short story collection that won her The Guardian First Book Award. She has since published a novel, The Book of Memory (2015), another collection, Rotten Row (2016), and secured a deal with publishers Scribner for her second novel, Out of the Dark, Shining Light (2019). The title story of the collection will be reissued alongside 19 other stories selected in collaboration with Booker Prize Foundation literary director Gaby Wood:

  • Robert Aickman – “The Inner Room”
  • Brian Aldiss – “Three Types of Solitude”
  • Djuna Barnes – “The Lydia Steptoe Stories”
  • Samuel Beckett – “Dante and the Lobster”
  • Alan Bennett – “The Shielding of Mrs Forbes”
  • Sarah Hall – “Mrs Fox”
  • Kazuo Ishiguro – “Come Rain or Come Shine”
  • P. D. James – “The Victim”
  • Thom Jones – “Sonny Liston Was a Friend of Mine”
  • Claire Keegan – “The Forester’s Daughter”
  • John McGahern – “The Country Funeral”
  • David Means – “A River In Egypt”
  • Lorrie Moore – “Terrific Mother”
  • Edna O’Brien – “Paradise”
  • Flannery O’Connor – “A Good Man is Hard to Find”
  • Julia O’Faolain – “Daughters of Passion”
  • Sally Rooney – “Mr Salary”
  • Akhil Sharma – “Cosmopolitan”

The reissue, in a book to be titled Faber Stories, is only one item in the publishing house’s anniversary programme, which further includes reissues of children’s books and of music publications in Faber Social’s The Greatest Hits, a decade-by-decade celebration of their poetry list with “ten iconic collections of Faber poetry,” and the publication of Dear Mr Faber: The Untold Story of a Great Publishing House, “told through the words of the staff and authors who lived it – in letters, memoirs and diary entries that capture the excitement, hopes, fears and triumphs of ninety years of Faber.” Faber Stories will be published in January or March of 2019.

“I am delighted to be recognized for my contribution to my favorite form,” Gappah, who was named Brittle Paper‘s Person of 2016, wrote on Facebook. “I am also delighted that the story chosen is one I was told breaks every single rule of the short story, but somehow is also the best story I have written. I am very proud to have written ‘An Elegy for Easterly.’” Here is the rest of her Facebook post:

This opportunity presents me with the ability to rewrite something I have regretted for a while.

I wrote this story in 2007, with little or no confidence as to how much of my language I could get away with in a story written in English. So I translated the lullaby that closes the story.

I think it was a good translation as it respects the sense and rhythm of the original but I am hoping it will be reissued with some of the words from the full lullaby.

It goes like this:

Ehuuwe nyarara nhanha
Ehuuwe nyarara nhanha
Mwana wenyu anochema vakoma
Anochemera mai vakaenda
Vakaenda kwaChidyamupunga
Chidyamupunga magaka aora
Aorera mhiri kwaMungezi
KwaMungezi kune banga jena
Banga jena rekucheka nyama
Nyama kwayo ndeye paruware
Yapasi inozara mavhu
Heino njiva
Huuu!
Inogorukuta!
Huuu!
Nevana muzasi!
Huuu!
Vamwe varikumba!
Huuu!
Vanokanga zviyo!
Huuu!
Zviyo zvavatete!
Huuu!
Banga rangu rawa!
Huuu!
Ragonongwa nani
Huuu!
NaMushayabemhe
Huuu!
Agoriisepi!
Huuu!
Kurwizi rwukuru!
Huuu!

And on it goes!

There are many regional and language variations of this lullaby but this was the version sung to me by my aunts’ children when they babysat me, is the one I sang to my little brothers and sisters and eventually to my own son.

It is the first full poem I learned, outside my totem poem 🙂 It is a key part of my linguistic history. I am thrilled to share it as part of my publisher’s history.

Earlier in May, her short story, “The News of Her Death,” was named by Sunday Times among their “100 Greatest Short Stories of All-Time.”

Congratulations to Petina Gappah.

Find out more HERE.

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Otosirieze is deputy editor of Brittle Paper. He is a judge for the 2018/19 Gerald Kraak Prize and the 2019 Miles Morland Writing Scholarships. He is an 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 the curator of 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 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 combined English and History at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is completing a postgraduate degree in African Studies, and taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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