At a Monday ceremony in London, Sudanese author Bushra al-Fadil became the first-ever Arabophone winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing, along with translator Max Shmookler:
Al-Fadil won the £10,000 short-story prize for “The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away,” which appears in The Book of Khartoum: A City in Short Fiction (2016), ed. Shmookler and Raph Cormack.
The award was announced at a Monday evening ceremony by 2017 Caine Chair of Judges Nii Ayikwei Parkes. As a translated story, the prize money will be split 70/30, with £7,000 going to the author and £3,000 to the translator.
In a prepared statement, Nii Ayikwei Parkes said of the story that it “is one that explores through metaphor and an altered, inventive mode of perception – including, for the first time in the Caine Prize, illustration – the allure of, and relentless threats to freedom. Rooted in a mix of classical traditions as well as the vernacular contexts of its location, Bushra al-Fadil’s ‘The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away,’ is at once a very modern exploration of how assaulted from all sides and unsupported by those we would turn to for solace we can became mentally exiled in our own lands, edging in to a fantasy existence where we seek to cling to a sort of freedom until ultimately we slip into physical exile.”
Al-Fadil is not only the first Arabic-language writer to win the 17-year-old prize — at 65, he also becomes the oldest writer to win the Caine.
As in past years, al-Fadil will be given the opportunity of a residency at Georgetown University and will be invited to speak at the US Library of Congress.
The 2017 shortlist also included:
Lesley Nneka Arimah’s ‘Who Will Greet You At Home’.
Chikodili Emelumadu’s ‘Bush Baby’
Arinze Ifeakandu’s ‘God’s Children are Little Broken Things’
Magogodi oaMphela Makhene’s ‘The Virus’