Rising above criticism

2015-10-27 11:36

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Lusaka Punk and Other Stories – The Caine Prize Anthology 2015
New Internationalist Publications
304 pages
R205 from takealot.com

If the venomous criticism the Caine Prize for African Writing has received over the past few years has put you off the competition, the critiques of Lusaka Punk – this year’s compilation of the prize’s short-listed stories – might compel those desperate enough to read them to enter their nearest bookstore incognito. 

In 2011, Nigerian writer Ikhide R Ikheloa called the short-listed stories a “riot of exhausted clichés”, referring to what he argues is a preoccupation with stories that perpetuate the narratives of darkest Africa – poverty, war, child soldiers, genocide and so on. 

Helon Habila, one of Ikheloa’s literary contemporaries, echoed him last year, asking whether “this new writing is a fair representation of Africa”. 

The winners, say critics, are also too often Africans raised and educated abroad.

Judges have responded to the criticism by claiming it’s all sour grapes. 

And then, on top of all that, when this year’s prize was awarded to Zambian author Namwali Serpell for her story The Sack, the author announced she would be splitting the £10 000 prize money among her five fellow nominees, saying literature shouldn’t be treated like a horse race. 

“I thought the prize structure worked against the spirit of supporting and encouraging my fellow writers,” she said. 
With my own copy in hand, however, I can quite proudly admit that for those who don’t use literary prizes as a way to navigate their literary tastes (or opinions, for that matter), there is very little criticism one can level against the collection’s 12 stories without coming across as being just a little bit bitter. 

Yes, there certainly is a dose of poverty porn in the mix, and no shortage of violence, but from the story of a successful apartheid insurance dealer to the effect of an imported Chinese building crew on a small village facing gentrification, there is no dearth of diversity among these voices. 

When the stories are read consecutively, they encompass a fluid reading of some of the world’s most considered perspectives of the continent and will undoubtedly broaden your views of a “written Africa”, as Binyavanga Wainaina might put it. 

But even Wainaina, the 2002 winner of the prize, points out that “the Caine Prize can’t do what we all have to – centralise our vision for ourselves to ourselves and the world”. 

There is just too much tension and context to simply enjoy Lusaka Punk on a beach somewhere. The institution around it has made it much more than just a light read. But I would nevertheless suggest you try reading the work for yourself and seeing if, somewhere, among all the entries, you find a bit of your own story, or someone you know, or even just a story that reminds you of something you may have forgotten about the place in which you live. 

If you’re still unsure, you have the option to download a few of the free stories from this year’s selection from caineprize.com before buying the book. 

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

 
PARTNER CONTENT
INFOGRAPHIC: New thinking required for retirement

Everything we believe about retirement is fast becoming outdated.

PARTNER CONTENT
WATCH: How education can change a life

A university education gives students the chance to create a better future for themselves, their families and to opportunity achieve their dreams.

/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.