Nigerian literature is going from strength to strength

Winner of the 2013 Caine Prize for African writing and four nominees all hail from Nigeria.

Nigerian writer Tope Folarin has been awarded the 2013 Caine Prize for his short story Miracle published in Transition Magazine. He was awarded £10,000 for what judges described as a “delightful and beautifully paced narrative” set in a Nigerian evangelical church in Texas. Miracle tells the tale of a congregation that have gathered to witness the healing powers of a blind pastor and prophet on a tour across America.

The prize, considered one of the most prestigious for African literature, is now fourteen years old. It was named after the late Sir Michael Caine who worked on establishing it shortly before he died and was also instrumental in the foundation of the Booker Prize.

Folarin was awarded his prize last night at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. He has been awarded two Master’s degrees at the University, where he has previously studied as a Rhodes Scholar.

His win is reflective of the increasing critical acclaim for Nigerian literature. Last year’s winner was Nigerian as were four out of five writers shortlisted for the 2013 prize. To read more about the nominated authors, head over to the Caine Prize's website.

Winner of the 2013 Caine Prize, Tope Forlarin. Photo: David Fleming.

James is a freelance journalist with a particular interest in UK politics and social commentary. His blog can be found hereYou can follow him on Twitter @jamesevans42.

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Radio as shelter: Grenfell Tower was too frightening to look at

No song seemed to fit the mood on Hayes FM.

“Amidst all this horror, I hope to bring you some light relief. Here’s James Taylor.” Two days after the Grenfell Tower fire, a popular community station a little west of the incident was uncertain what note to strike.

The repeated ads for alarms detecting carbon-monoxide leaks (“this silent killer”) and tips on how to prevent house fires (“Don’t overwhelm your sockets and cause a spark”) sounded perhaps a little overassertive, but then the one for a day-long course focusing on resisting gender stereotyping (“Change the narrative”) felt somewhat out of place. And no song seemed to fit. James Taylor’s “Shower the People” turned out OK, but the Cranberries’ “The Icicle Melts” was unceremoniously faded out mid-flow.

This does often happen on Hayes FM, though. There are times when the playlist is patently restless, embodying that hopeless sensation when you can’t settle and are going through tracks like an unplugged bath – Kate Bush too cringey, T-Rex too camp – everything reminding you of some terrible holiday a couple of years ago. Instead, more ads. Watch your salt intake. Giving up smoking might be a good idea. Further fire safety. (“Attach too many appliances and it could cause an overload and that could cause a fire. Fire kills.”)

Then a weather report during which nobody could quite bring themselves to state the obvious: that the sky was glorious. A bell of blue glass. The morning of the fire – the building still ablaze – I had found three 15-year-old boys, pupils at a Latimer Road school that stayed closed that day because of the chaos, sitting in their uniforms on a bench on the mooring where I live, along the towpath from the tower.

They were listening to the perpetual soft jangle of talk radio as it reported on the situation. “Why the radio?” I asked them, the sight of young people not focused on visuals clearly unusual. “It’s too frightening to look at!” they reasoned.

Radio as shelter. As they listened, one of them turned over in his hand a fragment of the tower’s cladding that he must have picked up in the street on the way over – a sticky-charcoaled hack of sponge, which clung like an insect to his fingers whenever he tried to drop it. 

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 22 June 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The zombie PM

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