No Arab Writers Make the Shortlist for ‘African Booker’

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.”)

The shortlisted writers hail from Kenya, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Zambia. But being born in Africa is not a requirement. The prize’s definition of African is somewhat squishy:

‘An African writer’ is taken to mean someone who was born in Africa, or who is a national of an African country, or whose parents are African, and whose work has reflected African sensibilities.

Whatever sensibilities those might be.

In any case, all nominees must write in English, or be published in (beautiful) English translation. As one of the judges notes on the Guardian book blog:

…even if I could persuade myself to accept the idea of an “African writer”, although three of the five judges are Africans, this is a prize decided in England, awarded in Oxford for work written in English. There are no stories translated from French or Arabic. And what about Shona, Twi, Hausa, Chewa, Lingala, Swahili or Afrikaans?

More sighing over the prize from M.A. Orthofer over at the Literary Saloon. 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.