For just the second time in the Caine Prize for African Writing’s eighteen-year history, a short story translated from the Arabic has reached the shortlist:
The shortlisted story is Sudanese writer Bushra al-Fadil’s “The Story of the Girl whose Birds Flew Away,” translated by Max Shmookler with support from Najlaa Osman Eltom. It appeared in The Book of Khartoum – A City in Short Fiction, ed. Shmookler and Raph Cormack.
A prominent Sudanese writer, al-Fadil has previously won the Al Tayeb Salih prize for his short story “Above the Bandar Sky.” Thus far, al-Fadil has published four story collections, his most recent being Above a City’s Sky (2012), publihsed in the same year he won his Al Tayeb Salih award.
Born in Argi, in northern Sudan, al-Fadil is currently based in Jedda, Saudi Arabia. According to his biography in Banipal, after obtaining his PhD in Russian from Moscow, al-Fadil “taught Russian literature and language at Khartoum University until he was expelled in the early 1990s along with many other lecturers and hundreds of student after protests about the military coup by Omar al-Bashir.”
Of the shortlist, prize judging chair Nii Parkes said in a prepared statement, “Although they range in tone from the satirical to the surreal, all five stories on this year’s shortlist are unrelentingly haunting. It has been a wonderful journey so far and we look forward to selecting a winner.”
The Caine Prize winner takes £10,000, while the other finalists get £500 — in al-Fadil’s case, presumably split with Shmookler. The winner is set to be announced in London on July 3.
The last short story translated from the Arabic to make a Caine Prize shortlist was Tunisian writer Hassouna Mosbahi’s “The Tortoise,” trans. Peter Clark. It made the shortlist in 2001.
You can read all the stories online: