Stanley Kenani Speaks On His Caine Prize Nomination: Malawian Writers Should Look Beyond Confines of Our Borders
Kenani, former Malawi Writers Union president says this in an exclusive interview with Malawi Voice on his nomination for this year’s Caine Prize.
This will be Kenani’s second appearance to the much coveted literary gala, after he was also short listed in 2008 for his short story For Honour which was published by Spearhead in Cape Town. This year he is returning to the stage courtesy of a short story Love on Trial.
“I want them to dream big, to have the continent and the world in mind while telling our stories, the stories that make us Malawian,” said Kenani.
For more on the nomination, below is the full interview;
What is the Caine Prize all about?
The Prize is named in celebration of the late Sir Michael Caine, former Chairman of Booker plc, who was Chairman of the ‘Africa 95′ arts festival in Europe and Africa in 1995 and for nearly 25 years Chairman of the Booker Prize management committee.
Shortly before he died, Sir Michael Caine was working on the idea of a prize to encourage the growing recognition of the worth of African writing in English, its richness and diversity, by bringing it to a wider audience. His friends and colleagues decided to carry this idea forward and establish a prize of £10,000 to be awarded annually in his memory.
As he intended, the Caine Prize is open to writers from anywhere in Africa for work published in English. Its focus is on the short story, as reflecting the contemporary development of the African story-telling tradition.
The first prize was awarded in 2000, at the Zimbabwe International Book Fair 2000 in Harare, and the 2001 Prize at the Nairobi Book Fair in September 2001 The winner is announced at a dinner in Oxford in July, to which the shortlisted candidates are all invited. This is part of a week of activities for the candidates, including book readings, book signings and press opportunities.
The African winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature – Wole Soyinka, Nadine Gordimer and J M Coetzee – are Patrons of the Caine Prize, as is Chinua Achebe, winner of the Man Booker International Prize. Ben Okri, Nigerian Winner of the Booker Prize, is Vice President and chaired the first panel of Caine Prize Judges, in 2000.
How many times have you been nominated, and in previous nominations what has been your experience?
I have been shortlisted twice: in 2008 for my short story For Honour published by Spearhead in Cape Town and this year for Love on Trial.
What does it takes to be nominated for Caine Prize?
The following are rules for eligibility:
Unpublished work is not eligible for the Caine Prize.
Submissions should be made by publishers only.
Only one story per author will be considered in any one year.
They require 6 copies of the work in its originally published version.
If the work is published in a book or journal, they would like to receive at least one copy of the book / journal and five photocopies; but particularly where several stories are submitted from one anthology they would like if possible to receive six copies of the book / journal itself.
If the work is published online, they would like to receive six photocopies.
Only fictional work is eligible.
The rest as to what it takes depends on the hard work of each individual author, to write with the quality that would compete at the continental and world level
What does it means to you as a Malawian to be nominated?
In whatever I do I hope to inspire many young Malawian writers to look beyond the confines of our borders with regard to literary opportunities. I want them to dream big, to have the continent and the world in mind while telling our stories, the stories that make us Malawian.
Do you always see these nominations coming?
Not at all. It is always a surprise, a big surprise. I know I am not the best writer in Malawi, far from it. I am a budding writer, like many youths who once voted me President of the Malawi Writers Union. There are far better writers in Malawi than I am, and they would be more deserving of this shortlist.
Who are other Malawians you know who have also had this honour?
No other Malawian has ever been shortlisted.
Please note that this is merely a shortlist. What matters, really, is winning the prize itself. It does not matter how many times one is shortlisted; and being shortlisted twice does not, in any way, give me any advantage at all against the four other stories on the shortlist. I have read the other stories, and each of them is breathtakingly brilliant and utterly deserving of victory. I wish each of those on the shortlist good luck. In the end, the victory is for the African story, because it is good that we are in this position of telling our stories to the world. Thank you Austin.