Saturday 5 May 2012

Since I'm going to take part in an extended discussion on this year's Caine Prize nominees across various blogs, I'm also going to link to everyone else's posts. Most of them have much bigger brains than me, so that can't hurt.

Here's Aaron Bady's post which sparked this project. He has been following the Prize for a while and you can find links to his commentary on past prize winners and actually just lots of other good, relevant links in this post.

Mathew Cheney, whose brains are so big that they threaten to upset the earth's axis has also written on this Prize before and both links to his past commentary and offers his reaction to Bernadine Evaristo here.

I don't know the name of this blogger, but a lot of things he said really resonated with me. Particularly this:

Lastly (for now), there’s the more abstract question of how the Caine Prize frames the works that it recognizes. The Prize bills itself as an award for the best writing in English by Africans. As such it promotes the idea that literature in Africa is essentially a competition among individuals to produce work of superior quality. So then what of Ngugi wa Thiong’o's assertion that literature is the expression of a community’s collective identity? Or Achebe’s belief that a writer must be a teacher? What about the half-century of scholarly work about African literature that emphasizes its roots in oral (i.e. communal) traditions and missionary education?
Let me be clear: the Caine Prize is a worthy institution. It makes African writing present to a potentially global public in a way that no African institution can match. However we readers should be acutely aware of how it promotes, not just individual authors, but a framework of literary individuality. And we need to be aware that this approach stands in painful contrast to some of the most hopeful and utopian thinking about what African literature could be.
 Finally, I'd like to make two things clear: I am fascinated by the debates over the nature and future of African literature being unearthed here because it is a fascinating topic in itself, but also because I feel that it resonates with similar debates over literature in India, where I live and try to write.

Also, I love short stories, and that may well be the primary reason I've decided to jump in and certainly my primary vector for commenting on individual stories will be as stories, as short works of literature. I'll write a lot about language, plot, characterisation and setting. And as an amateur critic, my posts may seem callow and superficial. But I hope I'll learn something along the way. 

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