Wednesday, April 28, 2010

No Arab Writers Make the Shortlist for ‘African Booker’

It appears that some voices are registering their discontent over the apparent negligence of North African writers in the only "African Booker," the Caine Prize for African writing. Short story prize, mark you. One of the voices expresses it thus:
"They’ve announced the shortlist for the Caine Prize for African Writing (sometimes called the “African Booker,” even though it’s a short-story prize, not for a novel). The shortlistees were selected from 115 entries from 13 African countries. (This compelled me to look up: “How many countries in Africa?” on the Internet. Most common answer: “53.”) ...Next year, let’s at least get it together and submit something from a few North African writers. After all, it may not be an ideally structured prize, but it is £10,000."

Good for you, brother, or sister. And this makes me actually want to be an Arab writer located somewhere north of whatever is called sub-Saharan Africa. I can compete in the Arabic Booker from which my sub-Saharan brothers and sisters are excluded. (Bad for them) Next, I will want to compete in their consolation prize, short story prize!), which some malarial delusion led some people to call Booker prize. Got it? God, please make me an Arab writer. Now!!!
Anyway here's the original piece. ENJOY.


  1. You don't have to be an Arab to compete for the IPAF ("Arabic Booker"). You just have to write in Arabic. So...the prize is open to yourself and anyone else who chooses to write in Arabic.

    In any case, I don't see a point to exiling North Africans from the pan-African identity.

  2. Good points. Part of the problem is the lack of validation of literary translation from African languages. There are so few translators and so few opportunities that award translators. The recently founded Etisalat Prize for African Literature, for example, specifies that works submitted must be ORIGINALLY published in English, thus shutting down the possibility of a translated submission, which prizes like the Caine or the Wole Soyinka prize technically allow. (I plan to write more on this in my column later this month.) On the other hand, there are great efforts by the journal Words without Borders, which is currently calling for submissions of translations for an issue on African women's writing in African languages. There needs to be much more of this sort of opportunity.