New Writing from Africa (2009)
"WHAT are African writers thinking and writing about as the first decade of the 21st century draws to a close?"
Winning stories selected by J.M.Coetzee
What's on the minds of African writers? The South African Chapter of PEN International asked the question, and this volume of collected works holds the answer.
More than 800 pieces of new writing from across the continent flowed in once the call for entries was made for the PEN/Studzinski Literary Award. This collection contains the 34 short stories eventually selected, including the prize-winners and those receiving honourable mentions from final judge JM Coetzee.
This is a contemporary African reading journey that will take you from Algeria to Zimbabwe, with stops along the way in Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Mauritius, Botswana, Mozambique, and South Africa. The writers are young and old, established and unpublished; the subject matter as diverse as Africa itself. It is an African literary journey at this juncture, and it is one to be savoured.
New Writing from Africa 2009: Original Short Stories by African Writers,
A Book Review
by Karina Magdalena Szczurek
first published at www.itch.co.za
New Writing from Africa 2009 presents the 34 finalists of the 2009 PEN/Studzinski Literary Award. 827 stories from all over Africa were entered for the short-story competition. They were first read by a team of preliminary readers which longlisted 195 titles. These went on to an editorial board consisting of Anthony Fleischer, Harry Garuba, Alistair King and Mary Watson, who in turn selected the finalists. Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee chose the winning entries and honourable mentions.
As one of the many preliminary readers, I had the pleasure of already reading some of the stories in this collection before the final results of the competition were known. It was mostly an exciting process. Thematically, the entries offered an amazing insight into the preoccupations of writers on the African continent. What dampened the enthusiasm almost throughout was the poor quality of the writing.
However, there was one gem among the stories I'd been assigned. After reading it, I knew in my bones that it would win. It was difficult to imagine that any other story could outshine it. I think I was just as happy as the winner Karen Jayes herself to hear that I was right. Where He Will Leave His Shoes by this promising new writer is one of those rare treats that knock you off your feet before you know what's happened. Jayes ventures into a worn-out topic - the master-servant relationship - and navigates us through it by an unknown path, her insights and allusions skilfully rendered. The story is intensely felt, beautifully written, and makes you hungry for more. One can only hope that Jayes has many more like it up her sleeve and that the publishers have already pounced. An entire collection by this author will be impatiently awaited.
However, the award anthology, if it is to be a success with readers, cannot do without editing. As it is at present, apart from the stories mentioned above, it becomes a very tedious read. I struggled to keep going. Not because the other finalists were hopeless, but because they could have been so much better. In this sense the book actually fails its authors.
It is a tricky situation, but I can imagine that in the future the original entries could be made available online for anyone wanting to see why the judges reached their conclusions, but a properly edited book would offer the finalists a much better chance of displaying their talents to the general public. All published writers have this well-established safety net to fall back on and this is what very often brings out the best in their work. I think the finalists of such a prestigious literary award as the PEN/Studzinski deserve nothing less. Especially since the wealth of talent that these stories hold is striking even though a lot of it is still quite rough around the edges.
What the anthology captures is a wide spectrum of experiences from across Africa, reflecting a continent full of stories waiting to be told and authors eager to be heard. Topics focusing on gender and sexuality, military and political conflicts, xenophobia, and everyday hardships on the continent dominate. As it is, the narrative and stylistic methods at work do not do justice to the amalgam of possibilities. But the potential is there and it would be a pity not to do anything about it.
After skipping a year, the PEN/Studzinski Literary Award for 2011 should be launched later this year.
New Writing from Africa 2009: Original Short Stories by African Writers
Karina Magdalena Szczurek is a writer and literary critic. She lives in Cape Town with her husband, author André Brink, and their three cats: Mozart, Salieri and Glinka.
African PENS (2007)
Moral and creative courage marks these new stories from young writers of the SADC region. They say what they want and confront what they must, unconstrained by past notions of what can or should be voiced. African Pens – New writing from southern Africa 2007 is the final collection in a three-year series of best entries to the US$10 000 HSBC/SA PEN Literary Award.
“The best of these young writers are on a par with their coevals in the West ... the material they work with is of burning social, political and human importance.
African Pens authors:
Elizabeth Bishop, Renée Bonorchis, Clare Butcher, Malcolm Cumming, Carol-Anne Davids, Nadia Davids, Petina Gappah, Claire Gaul, Karen Jennings, Stanley Kenani, Deborah Klein, Morne Malan, Steven Marston, Matthew Mbanga, Linda McCullough, Sean Mitchell, Christopher Mlalazi, Fiona Moolla, Kyne Nislev Bernstorff, Mehluli Nxumalo, Lee Olivier, Vrenika Pather, Henrietta Rose-Innes, Michelle Sacks, Gill Schierhout, Alexandra Smith, Karlien van der Schyff, Richard Walne, Carolyn Weir
African Road (2006)
The 2006 award attracted 231 entries from Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, and selected stories were published in African Road – New writing from southern Africa 2006 in April.
We publish ‘Travels to the Magical Kingdom’, Sean O’Toole’s introduction to his first-prize winning story, ‘The road to Rephile’, followed by the story itself. We also publish the second-prize winning story by Elizabeth Pienaar, ‘Breaking down the house’
Lauren Beukes, Renée Bonorchis, Sukoluhle Joy Chilongo, Helen Collett, Malcolm Cumming, Ceridwen Dovey, Martha Evans, Justin Fox, Simone Haysom, Nirupa Hurley, Frank Kapesa, Renesh Lakhan, Timwa Lipenga, Kyne Nislev Bernstorff, Ruth Lindiwe Nkutha, Nadya Moksha Mahadeo, Kirsten Miller, Fiona Moolla, Pier Myburg, Lee Olivier, Sean O’Toole, Elizabeth Pienaar, Mooniq Shaikjee, Michael Williams
African Compass (2005)
African Compass contains the 2006 Caine Prize for African Writing shortlisted story 'A Joburg story' by Darrel Bristow-Bovey.
Carel Alberts, Darrel Bristow-Bovey, Graham Carlson, Maxine Case, Jonathan Cumming, Dinis Da Costa, Nicholas Dall, Jessica Druker, Justin Fox, Silke Heiss, Liesl Jobson, Farhad Khoyratty, Bruce Leech, Heinrich J Louw, Kirsten Miller, Fiona Moolla, Huw Morris, Pier Myburgh, Kyne Nislev Bernstorff, Elizabeth Pienaar, Gill Schierhout, Tebogo C Sengfeng, Melanie Wright, Thishiwe Ziqubu