Namwali Serpell was one of five African writers short listed for the annual Caine Prize short story competition for African Literature which in addition to a month long residency at Georgetown University also comes with a $15,000 cash prize.
When it was announced that the Zambian writer had won this year’s prize for her short story “The Sack“, Serpell made an announcement of her own. She would share her cash prize with the other 4 shortlisted writers. This is an act of “mutiny” she says she planned before ever knowing she would win in hopes of easing the competitive nature of the prize between herself and other writers she considers equally as deserving.
Namwali Serpell’s first published story, “Muzungu,” was selected for the Best American Short Stories 2009 and shortlisted for the 2010 Caine Prize for African Writing. In 2014, she was selected as one of the most promising African writers for the Africa 39 Anthology, a project of the Hay festival. Her writing has appeared in Tin House, The Believer, n+1, McSweeney’s (forthcoming), Bidoun, Callaloo, The San Francisco Chronicle, The L.A. Review of Books, and The Guardian. She is an associate professor in the University of California, Berkeley English department; her first book of literary criticism, Seven Modes of Uncertainty, was published in 2014.
“The Sack” explores a world where dreams and reality are both claustrophobic and dark. The relationship between two men and an absent woman are explored though troubled interactions and power relationships which jar with the views held by the characters.
Zoë Wicomb, Chair of the Caine Prize Judges, praised the story, saying, “From a very strong shortlist we have picked an extraordinary story about the aftermath of revolution with its liberatory promises shattered. It makes demands on the reader and challenges conventions of the genre. It yields fresh meaning with every reading. Formally innovative, stylistically stunning, haunting and enigmatic in its effects. ‘The Sack’ is a truly luminous winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing.” (Full Post Here)