Miracle by Tope Folarin Wins the Caine Prize for African Writing 2013
By Veronica Nkwocha
Two words, ‘Tope Folarin’ tweeted by @CainePrize at 10:20 PM on 8 July 2013 cut through the tense wait of thousands of lovers of literature. It proclaimed ‘Miracle’ from Transition, Issue 109 (Bloomington, 2012) as the winning entry for the Caine Prize for African Writing 2013.
A well-crafted story, ‘Miracle’ shows an attention to detail that takes the reader on a panoramic journey into the scene where it all played out. The underlying satire was well nuanced and nudges the reader to hover between viewing it as a legitimate experience or a mocking condescending piece (See No.2 ‘Renounce Your Faith). The latter was tempered with the apparent youth of the main character plus a sensitive portrayal and the former, seared-in with the excellent storytelling.
There were some unforgettable quotes, e.g.
“We need jobs. We need good grades. We need green cards. We need American passports. We need our parents to understand that we are Americans. We need our children to understand they are Nigerians”.
The highlighted words bring life to the unconscious struggle between two generations uprooted from a faraway homeland; a typical experience in the diaspora normally shrouded from view, the coming together constantly at tenterhooks. Tope Folarin has spoken of his experience as an African born and raised in America, the effects of the community in diaspora recreating their roots in their new homeland and how it influenced his writing. A detailed interview appears on Brittle Paper.
“…the winner of the £10,000 Caine Prize will be given the opportunity to take up a month’s residence at Georgetown University, as a Writer-in-Residence at the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice and will be invited to take part in the Open Book Festival in Cape Town in September.”
Hearty congratulations to Tope Folarin, the fourteenth winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing. We wish him all the best and look forward to reading more of his work.
Best of Luck to the Authors in the Caine Prize Shortlist 2013
By Veronica Nkwocha
*Update: ‘Miracle’ by Tope Folarin has won the 2013 Caine Prize for African Writing! Congratulations and we wish him all the best.
I’ve enjoyed reading the Caine Prize shortlist this past month. My reviews have been from the perspective of a reader more focused on the story, than the flaws on the storytelling (I highlighted a few), although I acknowledge that the quality of the telling does mar or make the story. Most important to me was its integrity and believability, and whether the words formed into themselves, until they became a symbiotic whole, like one thriving and living organism.
When I joined the ‘blog carnival’ per Aaron Bady, I only knew of Elnathan John as I had read his blog in the past and admire his writing; ‘Bayan Layi’ drew me into the tale. I realised later that a short story ‘Runs Girl’ I had recently discovered and enjoyed immensely was written by Chinelo Okparanta; her ‘America’ was confident and intuitive. I’m better for discovering the cheeky wit that came across like an undercurrent from the telling of the character in ‘Miracle’ of Tope Folarin, the gregarious but pugnacious confidence of ‘Logan’ in ‘Foreign Aid’ per Pedi Hollist and the lyrical sweetness of Abubakar Adam Ibrahim‘s ‘The Whispering Trees’. I look forward to reading more of their work in the future and wish them all the best on the 8th of July when the prize is announced. I have my favourites but I believe they are all deserving as each one brought something different that adds to the discourse and the enjoyment of today’s literature.
The criticism of the ‘one-dimensional’ aspect of the ‘Caine Prize Story‘ is a challenge to writers to write a wide variety of stories, a lot of them already do so. It’s an even bigger challenge to publishers, prizes etc. but the solution is not to squash the stories of ‘poverty porn’ as some describe it. An increase in the number of publishers and prizes should allow the ‘African Story‘ rise beyond the pull between two extremes; each valid and each vital, begging to be told.
*This is one of five posts on the Caine Prize for African Writing 2013 Shortlist. A group as organised by Aaron Bady will be blogging about the entries (one per week) for the next five weeks until the prize is announced on the 8th of July. Please see the links below for details and a schedule.
My Thoughts on ‘Miracle’ by Tope Folarin
By Veronica Nkwocha
‘Miracle’ (read here) begins with an all too familiar tale in the diaspora, a people uprooted and fragmented leaning close together huddling with the familiar. The thread that binds them in this story is religion and its ‘familiar’ rituals of service. The particular service presents an extreme focus on a man at the apex and a shivering pool of the faithful expectant of the heady feelings that herald a shared knowing as to their wholesomeness.
A most fascinating attribute about the story lies in the things it doesn’t say. ‘Miracle’ presents the congregants as almost child-like. Like a group of uniform wearing kids sitting up straight jacketed in class afraid of breaking any of the many rules, whether written or unspoken. The service is orgasmic but even when they dance happily and ecstatic, they do so in tandem with the dictates of an unseen conductor.
It is a church service and the supernatural typically trumps the physical, a spring where the faithful can draw strength to face the tough world outside. (Edit) It’s everyone doing the same thing lost in an ‘other-worldliness’ that creates an unsettling feeling, is that how its adherents are really perceived from the outside looking in?
Here wishes and desires take a front seat before reality; hope is worn leaving the dress of truth behind. The eyes of the boy were not healed but the glasses were cast aside. Is that faith? Will he see with perfect clarity? As the (more…)