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Ngwah-Mbo Nana Nkweti. Photo credit: Out of Focus Studios.

Five writers—from Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Nigeria—have been shortlisted for the 2019 Caine Prize, for short stories that explore “the ordinary in an extraordinary manner.” Founded in 2000, and named after the late Sir Michael Caine, former Chairman of Booker Plc and Chairman of the Booker Prize, the £10,000 Caine Prize “is awarded for a short story by an African writer published in English,” between 3,000 to 10,000 words. This, 2019, is the prize’s twentieth year.

Here are the shortlisted writers and their short stories:

  • Lesley Nneka Arimah (Nigeria) for “Skinned,” published in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Issue 53 (2018).

  • Meron Hadero (Ethiopia) for “The Wall,” published in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Issue 52 (2018).

  • Cherrie Kandie (Kenya) for “Sew My Mouth,” published in ID Identity: New Short Fiction From Africa (2018).

  • Ngwah-Mbo Nana Nkweti (Cameroon) for “It Takes A Village Some Say,” published in The Baffler (2017).

  • Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor (Nigeria) for “All Our Lives,” published in ID Identity: New Short Fiction From Africa (2018).

Lesley Nneka Arimah. Photo credit: The Caine Prize.

The prize’s 2019 judges are: Peter Kimani, Kenyan author of Dance of the Jakaranda; Sefi Atta, Nigerian author of The Bead Collector and a finalist for the 2006 Prize; Margie Orford, South African crime-thriller novelist; Scott Taylor, director of the African Studies Program at Georgetown University, USA; and Olufemi Terry, Sierra Leonean winner of the 2010 Caine Prize. Kimani, who chairs the panel, said:

“This is a special year for the Caine Prize for African Writing, as it marks its twentieth anniversary. It’s a milestone that affords for both a reflection on the past, and a projection into the future. Without exception, past Caine Prize winners have been revolutionary and evolutionary— breaking fresh ground, while pushing the African story from the margins to the mainstream of world literature.

The five writers on this year’s shortlist carry on with that tradition, not just in their inventiveness in imagining the world, but also in tackling the ordinary in an extraordinary manner, in a wide-range of issues: gender and generation; home and exile; sexuality and religion; love and hate; happiness and heartbreak.”

Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor.

We at Brittle Paper are particularly excited by the shortlisting of Cameroon’s Ngwah-Mbo Nana Nkweti and Nigeria’s Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor. We published Nana Nkweti’s “Schoolyard Cannibal,” a prose poem that went on to be shortlisted for the 2017 Brittle Paper Anniversary Award. In Okafor’s case, his shortlisted story, “All Our Lives,” which won the 2017/18 Short Story Day Africa Prize, was a finalist for the 2018 Brittle Paper Award for Fiction.

The shortlist throws up two further connections. Two of the stories—Okafor’s “All Our Lives” and the Kenyan Cherrie Kandie’s “Sew My Mouth”—were published in Short Story Day Africa‘s most recent anthology ID: New Short Fiction from Africa (2018). Another two—the Ethiopian Meron Hadero’s “The Wall” and the Nigerian Lesley Nneka Arimah’s “Skinned”—were published in the same magazine last year: in Issues 52 and 53 of McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern. Notably, this is Arimah’s third shortlisting, in four years, following appearances in 2016 and 2017.

The five shortlisted stories will appear in a special anniversary anthology to mark the Caine Prize’s twentieth year. In line with the prize’s publication schedule for its annual anthology, the publication will likely be released by Jacana Media (South Africa), Lantern Books (Nigeria), Kwani? (Kenya), Sub-Saharan Publishers (Ghana), FEMRITE (Uganda), ‘amaBooks (Zimbabwe), New Internationalist (UK), Interlink Publishing (USA), Mkuki na Nyota (Tanzania), Redsea Cultural Foundation (Somaliland, Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan and UAE), Gadsden Publishers (Zambia), and Huza Press (Rwanda).

The winner of the 2019 prize will be announced on Monday 8 July 2018, at an award ceremony and dinner in the Beveridge Hall at Senate House, SOAS, in partnership with SOAS, University of London. Each shortlisted writer will receive £500.

Brittle Paper congratulates the five shortlisted writers.

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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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