Guest Column

Book News: Enter Magogodi

2017-05-21 06:06
Magogodi oaMphela Makhene

Magogodi oaMphela Makhene

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Charl Blignaut

The short list for the annual Caine Prize awarded for a short story by an African writer was announced this week and South Africa’s Magogodi oaMphela Makhene is in with a shot to pocket the R175 000 prize money.

How are you feeling about the short-listing?

I’m delighted. The prize has a storied history of supporting writers I admire – such as NoViolet Bulawayo and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – before they became international sensations.

And the issues in the past of the prize not doing enough to support Africans who live on the continent?

The question you’re essentially asking is: What does it mean to be an African writer? Is it geography and being tethered to the soil, or is it an inherent and inextricable sense of being? I think anyone who believes in and champions Africa has to conclude it’s the latter... The more interesting question is: Why do so many talented young Africans end up abroad to pursue their ambition?

What inspired your story?

The Virus was inspired by talk of cyberwarfare. I was listening to a 2012 panel in Washington considering how the US would react. I was surprisingly stimulated by the conundrum – I’ll happily admit I’m a nerd...
So I looked at the risks through a digitally remote African perspective. But sitting down to write, I was quite startled by the verkrampte Afrikaner male voice that belched out to tell the story...

What’s next?

I’m working on a short story collection about the inner lives and loves of ordinary South Africans. I was born and raised in Soweto at a formative and tender time in the country’s history. I think we stand to lose a fundamental truth about ourselves and our agency if we don’t tell our children the stories of our ordinary, doek-wearing grandmothers who woke up every day and put on a kitchen girl uniform not to serve the mistress, but to subvert her by putting food in the belly of a daughter who threw stones fighting hippos.

Read the short-listed stories at caineprize.com

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