By Ogova Ondego
Published April 10, 2013
Alexander Ikawah of Kenya and Dilman Dila of Uganda are the only East Africans to make it to the list dominated by Nigerians and South Africans.
Nigerians Ifeanyi Ajaegbo, Chibundu Onuzo and E.E. Sule and South African Jamala Safari are among the writers from 54 countries around the world who have been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize 2013.
Those making it to the list for the Short Story Prize are Ugandan Dilman Dila, Kenyan Alexander Ikawah, Nigerian Tobenna Nwosu and South Africans Julian Jackson and Sally-Ann Partridge. The overall winners are set to be unveiled on May 31, 2013.
But before then, each of the five regions–Africa, Asia, Canada and Europe, the Caribbean and the Pacific–of the Commonwealth is expected to have produced a regional winner for the two prizes on May 14, 2013.
On learning about his making it to the shortlist, Kenya’s Ikawah who is a prominent member of the Lola Kenya Screen film screening, discussion and networking forum, told ArtMatters.Info, “It’s great to be shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Short Story Prize and now more than ever I feel there is a future for me, and a lot of opportunities for other Kenyan writers, in professional writing. The trick is to read widely and hungrily, and then to read some more.”
On what he plans to do to advance his writing, the soft-spoken Ikawah simply says, “I have been on a deliberate mission to take my writing more seriously since last year and it paid off with a win in a local science-fiction contest run by a small literary agency called Lesleigh Inc in conjunction with UP magazine. The story, Afropolis: Rising Moon, was published in part in UP print magazine and in whole on their website. It gave me the necessary encouragement to take my writing seriously and submit my work to magazines and contests.
Alexander Ikawah’s story, titled simply as Fatima Saleh, is set in Kakuma Refugee camp in northern Kenya. It has twists and turns that leaves the reader surprised.
Ikawah graduated from Moi University in Eldoret with a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Arts, Theatre and film, works as a graphic designer with Nation Media Group in Nairobi.
The Commonwealth Book Prize is awarded for the best first novel and the Commonwealth Short Story Prize for the best piece of unpublished short fiction.
Part of Commonwealth Writers initiative of the Commonwealth Foundation, the prizes are meant to “unearth, develop and promote the best new writing from across the Commonwealth, developing literary connections worldwide,” says a media release from the Commonwealth Foundation.
“Political, religious and social conflict runs through many of this year’s shortlisted entries, but there are also humorous stories, stories of hope, and stories full of imagination and power. The unmatched global reach of the prizes allows readers internationally to engage with a world of literature that might otherwise remain undiscovered, consistently bringing less-heard voices to the fore,” the media release says.
Chair of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, BBC Special Correspondent Razia Iqbal, says, “People often assume short stories are easier to write because they’re, well, short! But it takes a particular skill to establish mood, character and tone in quick strokes, and tell a story which leaves a lasting impression. These stories open windows on worlds which seem familiar but, through fiction, which is tightly written, reflect those worlds, in richer and more surprising colours.”
“Our five judges did an admirable job of shortlisting from a bountiful harvest of debut novels, based on originality, linguistic flair, depth, quality of writing and freshness of tone,” says Godfrey Smith,Chair of the Commonwealth Book Prize. “A number of books boldly pushed the boundaries of form and explosively rebelled against the conventional structures of fiction-writing, inspiring lively and passionate debates among the judges.”
Below is the full lineup of Commonwealth Book and Short Story Prizes Shortlists announced:
Commonwealth Book Prize
- Sarah House, Ifeanyi Ajaegbo (Nigeria), Pan Macmillan (South Africa)
- Disposable People, Ezekel Alan (Jamaica), self-published
- Floundering, Romy Ash (Australia), Text Publishing
- Running the Rift, Naomi Benaron (Canada), HarperCollins Canada
- Mazin Grace, Dylan Coleman (Australia), University of Queensland Press
- A Tiger in Eden, Chris Flynn (Australia), Text Publishing
- The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Howard Fry, Rachel Joyce (United Kingdom), Transworld Publishers
- The Headmaster’s Wager, Vincent Lam (Canada), Doubleday Canada
- Island of a Thousand Mirrors, Nayomi Munaweera (Sri Lanka), Perera-Hussein Publishing House
- The Death of Bees, Lisa O’Donnell (United Kingdom), William Heinemann
- The Spider King’s Daughter, Chibundu Onuzo (Nigeria), Faber and Faber
- Em and the Big Hoom, Jerry Pinto (India), Aleph Book Company
- The Wildings, Nilanjana Roy (India), Aleph Book Company
- The Great Agony & Pure Laughter of the Gods, Jamala Safari (South Africa)
- The Last Thread, Michael Sala (Australia), Affirm
- The Other Side of Light, Mishi Saran (India), HarperCollins India
- God on Every Wind, Farhad Sorabjee (India), Parthian
- Sterile Sky, E.E. Sule (Nigeria), Pearson Education
- Narcopolis, Jeet Thayil (India), Faber and Faber
- Beneath the Darkening Sky, Majok Tulba (Australia), Penguin Books Australia
- The Bellwether Revivals, Benjamin Wood (United Kingdom), Simon & Schuster UK
Commonwealth Short Story Prize
- Not for Publication, Rachel Bush (New Zealand)
- A Killing in the Sun, Dilman Dila (Uganda)
- Normal, Susan Everett (United Kingdom)
- Chutney, Debz Hobs-Wyatt (United Kingdom)
- Fatima Saleh, Alexander Ikawah (Kenya)
- The New Customers, Julian Jackson (South Africa)
- Notes from the Ruins, Anushka Jasraj (India)
- A Good Friday, Barbara Jenkins (Trinidad and Tobago)
- Antonya’s Baby Shower on Camperdown Road, A.L. Major (Bahamas)
- Mango Summer, Janice Lynn (Bahamas)
- Things With Faces, Zo Meager (New Zealand)
- The Sarong-Man in the Old House, and an Incubus for a Rainy Night, Michael Mendis (Sri Lanka)
- The Whale House, Sharon Millar (Trinidad and Tobago)
- No War is Worth Debating, Tobenna Nwosu (Nigeria)
- Take me Home United Road, Sally-Ann Partridge (South Africa)
- Mortal Sins, Sinead Roarty (Australia)
- We Walked On Water, Eliza Robertson (Canada)
- Tug of War, Deborah Rogers (New Zealand)
- Raven, Tom Williams (Australia)