The Caine Prize for African Writing is a registered charity whose aim is to bring African writing to a wider audience using it’s annual literary award. In addition to administering the Prize, it works to connect readers with African writers through a series of public events, as well as helping emerging writers in Africa to enter the world of mainstream publishing through the annual Caine Prize writers’ workshop which takes place in a different African country each year.

Ahead of the upcoming events surrounding the Caine Prize and those shortlisted for the event, WOA have featured excerpts from the five shortlisted authors of 2016, showcasing their talent and literary flair.

Abdul Adan (Somalia/Kenya)

For ‘The Lifebloom Gift’  published in The Gonjon Pin and Other Stories: The CainePrize for African Writing 2014 (New Internationalist, United Kingdom, 2014). His work has appeared in African magazines Kwani, Jungle Jim, Gambit, Okike, Storytime, SCARF and elsewhere. He was a participant in the 2014 CainePrize workshop in Zimbabwe, and is a founding member of the Jalada collective. 

From “The Lifeblood Gift”

Once, when Ted was 25, his uncle visited him and asked if he might consider finding a job (for Ted was pretty much slothful). Ted didn’t really understand how one went about getting a job. He asked the uncle, for instance, to tell him more about jobs, including about their colour and texture, and especially their texture. When he was told one needed hard work to attain personal independence, the already overweight Ted stood up from his seat immediately and made two circular laps around the room, before coming back to sit down, saying amid gasps: ‘This is it. Hard work itself.’ No matter what was said to explain to him the idea of it, Ted’s hard work never evolved beyond his indoor walks. Sometimes he bent down dejectedly and shook his head, like someone in mourning, lamenting his life.

When asked why, he answered that it was what distressed people did, and unemployed people were supposed to be distressed. Ted couldn’t grasp any abstractions and simply saw everything as bits to be done and lived. He would shake his head or yell to express sadness or sorrow, and would walk about to respond to such phrases as ‘work hard’. I surmised that Ted’s excessively cuddly father, in combination with his loving but somewhat detached mother, confused him, turning him into a cloying wreck whenever he felt positively disposed towards another. His memory lapses are results of his mother’s emotional and physical unavailability.

Every time he’d reached out to her for comfort and, thereby, registered inside of himself her unquestionable loving presence, she had withdrawn suddenly, and sent his collective, cuddly feelings into dispersal, leading him to question if she had been there in the first place. Once he had an attack of his memory lapses in my presence and had to ask me to offer him an arm, a leg, a neck, or a shoulder every ten minutes. On one of those occasions, so unsure of my existence was he that he felt my arm all the way to the elbow and further up to my armpit, settling us both into a greenish trance until his mother ran in to free us by shouting, as one would to a stubborn horse, ‘snap out of it!’ The second time it happened, she couldn’t get any response to her verbal commands and had to hit him on the ankle with a baseball bat, fracturing it. I conclude that Ted suffers from an acute case of Sentimental Languor.

(Reprinted with the permission of Klaus & Debbie’s Science Magazine, St Louis)

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