Monday, October 10, 2011

Reading "To See the Mountain," Anthology of The Caine Prize for African Writing 2011

I am reading "To See the Mountain" an anthology of submissions for The Caine Prize for African Writing 2011. The stories are of a high order of literary merit and imagination. I am humbled by the local colour, the crispness of the language, the lilt of spoken dialogues, mostly missing from short stories arising from the sub-continent. Some of the characters stay with us for long, long since one has read about them. The depiction of local colour is vivid and vibrant. Where have we gone wrong, guys, writers from the sub-continent, apparently the fountainhead of literary merit. Or, have we become corrupt in our literary endeavours too?

Actually, there's so much bitching and gang-formation in the sub-continental literary realm. I don't know why. The fact is: once it comes to be known that one is an aspiring writer the back-stabbing starts:

  • He?She? He/she can't write to save his/her life
  • He doesn't know grammar from kachumbar
  • His writing stinks to high heavens
  • No imagination
  • He/she is too ambitious
  • And so on... I need not go into gory details here, but point is made.
We - writers in the sub-continent - are a universe within a universe and we are a divided universe at that. We love to stab behind the back, not offer constructive criticism, advise, mentorship. Write to an established writer for help (I have contacted quite a few) and you will be ignored, even ridiculed. There is silence, and the silence is a bit ominous. Our established writers won't stand on the side and applaud, they will probably smirk and laugh behind your back. It's sad. It's sad, but true.

Chairman Hisham Matar of the Caine Prize has said about the winning short story "Hitting Budapest": "The language of 'Hitting Budapest' crackles. Here we encounter Darling, Bastard, Chipo, Godknows, Stina and Sbho, a gang reminiscent of Clockwork Orange. But these are children, poor and violated and hungry. This is a story with moral power and weight, it has the artistry to refrain from moral commentary. NoViolet Bulawayo is a writer who takes delight in language."

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

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