The South African writer and Caine Prize winner Mary Watson wins the 2022 Philida Literary Award bestowed to a mid-career writer for an “oeuvre of literary excellence.”

Established in 2020, The award was founded by Karina M Brink in honor of her late husband the Booker-shortlisted author André Brink. It aims to “recognize a writer with a consistent record of publishing works of excellence and aims to encourage them further in their pursuit of a literary career.” The award announcement is made on February 6,  which is the anniversary of André Brink’s passing.

The award is named after a historical figure, Philida van de Caab, an enslaved knitting woman, who entered South Africa’s archival records for laying an official complaint against her masters, Francois and Cornelius Brink, distant relatives of André’s. She became the protagonist of André’s last published novel, Philida.

The inaugural award went to the South African author Mohale Mashigo while the 2021 prize went to Qarnita Loxton.

Winner of the 2006 Caine Prize for African Writing, Mary Watson’s body of work includes the short story collection Moss and the novels The Cutting Room, The Wren Hunt, and The Wickerlight. Her newest book, Blood to Poison, will be published in April 2022.

Her debut work, Moss, had been extolled by André Brink himself for its “persuasive power and exquisite beauty.”

On her award, Watson said: “I was thinking of André a little while earlier … How I never dreamed how incredibly supportive he’d be when I summoned up the nerve to pop those pages [of Moss] in his pigeon hole. So thank you so very much. I am truly, truly honoured.”

Each winner receives an award certificate designed by Debbie Minné and an amount of money determined by the royalties earned from the sales of You Make Me Possible: The Love Letters of Karina M. Szczurek and André Brink.

Congratulations to Mary Watson!