Caine prize 2012 collection to be published in Ghana

I will not discuss the winner of the 2012 Caine Prize for African fiction, as my colleague blogger, ImageNations, has already done a good job on all the links needed.

I did read all the five shortlisted stories, and will freely admit that “Bombay’s Republic” was definitely in my top two.

I think what intrigues me even more this year is the fact that the 2012 Caine Prize anthology is not only going to be published in the UK/USA, but also in six African countries, including Ghana.  Actually I believe it had already been co-published in South Africa (with Jacana), in Nigeria (with Cassava Republic) and Kenya (Kwani?) but what with the lack of distribution of books between African countries, in the past the easiest way of getting a copy was to order either from the UK or the US!  Incidentally I have in the past emailed at least one of the above publishers and asked whether they haven’t considered some distribution of their titles here in Ghana, but no answer.  But that, as they say, is a whole other story.

Getting back to the latest Caine Prize collection: spurred on by the prospect of local availability, I thought I would follow up.  A small search – actually in a physical directory! – revealed four numbers for Sub-Saharan Publishers [sorry I couldn’t find any website], so I hoped that at least one of them would work.  And it did.

The good news:  African violet (the name of the collection) which was published by New Internationalist in the UK on 1 July 2012 and was indeed reviewed by Bookshy (a book blogger based in Nigeria) will indeed be published, and therefore available to buy here in Ghana.

The not so good news:  some of us will just have to wait six weeks or so before we get a chance to buy a local copy!

But at least it is something worth looking forward to.

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Blogging the Caine Prize, 2012: Bombay’s Republic

A group of book bloggers, “inspired by” Zunguzungu are blogging about the shortlist for this year’s Caine Prize, and with a reminder from KinnaReads I thought I should make my own contribution, since I was going to read the stories anyway.  This is more a personal reaction, rather than a full review.  Many others, more qualified than I, will do full justice to each of these stories.

The first story is Bombay’s Republic, by Rotimi Babatunde, who is from Nigeria.  It is also the first of the five stories which I read.

I admit that initially I thought it was quite a long story, but maybe that was because I was reading it on a screen rather than from the printed word.  [All right, I know that statement definitely dates me!].  But on reflection, I found that it actually moved pretty swiftly.

The mood of the story is mixed:  I smiled in several places, and shortly thereafter found myself shrinking with slight disgust at descriptions of tiger leeches and

how the leeches must not be plucked out because their fangs behind and, instead, should be scorched off with a match or lighter, since burn marks are kinder on the skin than sepsis festered by their abandoned fangs.

There are two parts to this : one in Nigeria, the other in the Far East/Burma. The first part covers Bombay’s experiences in the colonial army during World War II, while the last part is situated in Nigeria as it experiences the end of colonialism and the beginning of independence. Although the second does relate to Bombay’s experience during WWII, the author’s portrayal becomes more of a satire on political developments. It works as one story, but I found the first half much stronger – mainly because the commentary was a little more subtle.

Generally it is not a subtle story, but that’s OK. It is, as I mentioned earlier, funny, satirical and poignant.  I enjoyed it.

Rating: If I were to rate it out of 5, probably a 4.

Definitely recommended.