Friday, 11 November 2011

ONE DAY I WILL WRITE ABOUT THIS PLACE by Binyavanga Wainaina

This memoir has been getting a lot of positive press coverage, and I've reviewed it here for Africa Book Club.

Wainaina won the Caine Prize, and I found his account of how he set about doing so hilarious, especially in light of the discussions we've been having about the Prize here.
I spent the past few weeks polishing a short story for the Caine Prize for African Writing. It is about a young girl (Girl Child, Gender!) who is questioning the world, and her mother's values (Empowerment). I mine every sexy African theme I can think of. The Caine Prize, based in England, is worth fifteen thousand dollars, and you get an agent and fame and lots of commissioned work.
We then follow his desperate attempt to meet the definition of 'published' by getting it online the day before the deadline.

Though there are certainly important criticisms that can be made of the Caine, I think it's important that we think about the last sentence of the quote. The Caine more or less made Wainaina's career, as it has a number of other authors, and that makes up, in my mind, for a multitude of sins.

4 comments:

  1. This is so funny. It was a virtual lifeline to his career. And combining his 'polishing' and mining every sex African theme he could think of with is article 'How to Write About Africa' almost satirizes the Caine Prize. And like you earlier said, the prize is good but the focus is becoming narrower.

    Thanks for sharing SN

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  2. I heared Wainaina a few weeks ago as he came to Italy for a panel with other African writers and artists. I think he is a smart person and I jotted down the name of his memoir. I agree that prizes are getting more and more questionable.

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  3. Thanks for this, I really must finish this one soon - I keep being distracted by review commitments. Love that part you quoted about the Caine prize. And you are right - at least it does so much in launching careers of fantastic writers.

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  4. I really recommend it! It is very honest and straightforward.

    Nana . . .you should think about getting a Kindle! Then everything would be available right away!

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