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Caine Prize Writers Okwiri Oduor, Efemia Chela and Diane Awerbuck Launch The Gonjon Pin with Henrietta Rose-Innes

Diane Awerbuck, Okwiri Oduor, Efemia Chela and Henrietta Rose-Innes

Despite the chilly winter’s evening, the launch of the 2014 Caine Prize anthology, The Gonjon Pin and Other Stories, was a decidedly festive affair at Cape Town’s Book Lounge.

It kicked off with Mervyn Sloman, the independent bookshop’s proprietor, receiving a communal grammar lesson from the editors in the front row of the audience, and ended, an hour later, with him collapsing with mirth at the various hilarious insights and observations that flew from the stage. There was a superb turnout of writers and readers who, like Sloman, were seen wiping tears of merriment from their eyes.

nullThe Gonjon Pin and Other StoriesThe 2006 winner of the prize, Henrietta Rose-Innes, welcomed this year’s winner, Okwiri Oduor, and two of the runners up, Efemia Chela and Diane Awerbuck. Rose-Innes spoke about the growth of the prize, which is in its 15th year. She described it as the most important event on the calendar of African writing.

The anthology includes the shortlisted stories as well as a series of stories that were written at the annual Caine Prize Workshop which fosters up-and-coming African writers. Rose-Innes described the book as “particularly beautiful this year” with superb work from a range of talented writers, in particular Tendai Huchu and Billy Kahora.

“It seems to have been received very well,” Rose-Innes said. “The judges are not always the kindest, but the comments that came out from the judging panel were extraordinary with Jackie Kay announcing ‘a golden age for the African short story’.”

Rose-Innes reflected that although the Caine Prize has been quite controversial in the past, she sensed 2014 was its coming of age: “There were a record number of entries this year, with 140 entries that arrived from 17 African countries.”

Chela recalled the online chitchat in the run-up to the event, the speculation on which story was the best and the criticism that labelled them all as “terrible”. She said, “We were interviewed at the BBC several times, and met people who use the Caine Prize as the benchmark for new talent. As a young writer, this is extremely exciting. There’s a feeling that the stories this year set a different range. Each year brings its own variety. There’s my story that has squirting lesbians, there’s Okwiri’s story that has dying fathers, Diane’s story that has night swimming, nude swimming, so … there isn’t exactly a typical African aesthetic.”

Awerbuck observed how differently the stories and the prize were viewed here and in London. She said, “In Cape Town there is a lot of content being generated with few platforms for it to go out onto, but in the UK there seems to be a hunger for content, because there are structures in place to sell it. There were agents and filmmakers that seem to want African content. If you’re going to be an African writer, be one now!”

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Liesl Jobson (@LieslJobson) tweeted from the launch using #livebooks:

 

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Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://henriettaroseinnes.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Henrietta</a>
    Henrietta
    September 3rd, 2014 @22:20 #
     
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    wrong tweets?

    Bottom
  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    September 4th, 2014 @07:55 #
     
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    Probably! We'll sort that today :)

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  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    September 4th, 2014 @08:57 #
     
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    Sorry Henrietta! The Twitter Timelines widget won't show the data-id. True story. So we've inserted them manually.

    Bottom
  • <a href="http://henriettaroseinnes.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Henrietta</a>
    Henrietta
    September 4th, 2014 @10:03 #
     
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    Aha!

    Bottom

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