I recently read the short story The Winner by Ugandan writer Barbara Kimenye. The story is included in the collection Modern African Stories edited by Charles R. Larson, published by Fontana Books 1971.
About Barbara Kimenye
Barbara Kimenye was born in 1929 in England but considers herself Ugandan by birth. Kimenye began writing at an early age and put together her first newspaper when she was 11. Kimenye studied nursing in London. She married a Tanzanian and returned to Uganda in the early 1950s.
Kimenye became the private secretary of the Kabaka of Buganda, Mutesa II. Kabaka is the title given to the king of Buganda. Buganda was once an independent kingdom in what is now called Uganda. Uganda is actually the Swahili term for Buganda that was adopted by the British. Buganda is the largest traditional kingdom in Uganda and is inhabited by Uganda’s largest ethnic group the Baganda or Ganda people. The Ganda speak Luganda. Kampala, the capital of Uganda, is located in Buganda.
Kimenye was encouraged to pursue a career in journalism by Kenyan politician Tom Mboya (Barack Obama’s godfather). Kimenye went on to become a columnist for the Uganda Nation and Kenya’s Daily Nation. Kimenye is considered to be the first Black female journalist in East Africa and is one of the first Anglophone women writers to be published out of East Africa.
The short story The Winner comes from Kimenye’s collection Kalasanda(1965). The stories in this collection and Kimenye’s later collection Kalasanda Revisited(1966) follow the ordinary lives of the inhabitants of the village Kalasanda in Buganda.
Kimenye has gone on to become a prolific writer of African Children’s Literature. Her most popular series is about a boy named Moses who… read more.
This tale begins at the end; McPhineas Lata, the perennial bachelor who made a vocation of troubling married women, is dead. Th e air above Nokanyana village quivers with grief and rage, and not a small amount of joy because the troubling of married women, by its very definition, involved a lot of trouble. But, maybe because of his slippery personality, or an inordinate amount of blind luck, McPhineas Lata seemed to dodge the bulk of the trouble created by his behaviour, and left it for others to carry on, on his behalf. He had after all, admitted to Bongo and Cliff, his left and right side kicks, that troubling married women was a perfect past-time which was ‘all sweet and no sweat’.
Women in the village of Nokanyana, named after a small river that no one had yet been able to discover, were notoriously greedy, and, without exception, surly. Husbands in the village were all small and thin with tight muscles worked into knots because they spent all of their lives either working to please their wives or withstanding barrages of insults and criticisms for failing to do it up to the very high expectation of Nokanyana women. For Nokanyana men, it was a lose-lose situation and, as a result, each and every one of them despised McPhineas Lata merely for remaining single – he had made the right decision and they had not.
McPhineas Lata, though thus despised by most husbands, was adored by most wives. His funeral was full of dramatic fainting and howls of grief echoing as far as the Ditlhako Hills. Tears fell by the bucketful and nearly succeeded in creating the village’s missing namesake. The husbands stood at the back of the gathering wearing variations on the theme ‘stern face’ while… read more.
Dusk fell and so the dark, a bright day came, casting an ominous spell on me. Morning: the day’s own pursuit of newness and possibilities, it’d compelled me to lose my rest. Abandoning the comforts of my bed, I slouched over to my Gregorian attic window to fully absorb the voluptuousness of the morning. Birds flying high you know how I feel… Skies when you shine you know how I feel… Breeze drifting on by you know how I feel…It’s a new dawn…It’s a new day…It’s a new life…For me…And I’m feeling good. Thus I sang from the depths of my heart. I had not done so in years. Outside the interminable procession of spike steel bars that traced out the border of our manor sprawl, the streetlights longed for this beautiful morning so that they could be swiftly extinguished. Inside, the wedding cake-like fountain longed to be switched on, its waters were desperate to spray and sparkle up in the shiny skies. And yet despite the alluring promise of the beautiful morning, I stepped back two, three steps, flung myself back to bed to continue the night and fully embrace its darkness. Dragonflies out in the sun you know what I mean, don’t you know… Sharp stones lurked in the greens you know what I mean… read more.
The old jailhouse on the hilltop had remained uninhabited for many decades, through the construction of the town’s first grammar school and the beginning of house-to-house harassment from the affliction called sanitary inspectors, through the laying of the railway tracks by navvies who likewise succeeded in laying pregnancies in the bellies of several lovestruck girls, but fortunes changed for the building with the return of Colour Sergeant Bombay, the veteran who went off with the recruitment officers to Hitler’s War as a man and came back a spotted leopard.
Before Bombay’s departure when everything in the world was locked in its individual box, he could not have believed such metamorphosis was possible. A man was still a man and a leopard a leopard while the old jailhouse was a forsaken place not fit for human habitation. A white man was the District Officer who went by in an impressive white jacket and a black man was the Native Police constable who saluted as the white man passed. This was how the world was and there was no reason to think it could be otherwise. But the war came and the bombs started falling, shattering things out of their imprisonment in boxes and jumbling them without logic into a protean mishmash. Without warning, everything became… read more.
2012 Winner, Rotimi Babatunde with Caine Prize Founder, Baroness Nicholson
Nigeria’s Rotimi Babatunde has won the 2012 Caine Prize for African Writing, described as Africa’s leading literary award, for his short story entitled ‘Bombay’s Republic’ from ‘Mirabilia Review’ Vol. 3.9 (Lagos, 2011). http://mirabilia.webs.com/
The Chair of Judges, Bernardine Evaristo MBE, announced Rotimi Babatunde as the winner of the £10,000 prize at a dinner held this evening (Monday, 2 July) at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Bernardine Evaristo said: “Bombay’s Republic vividly describes the story of a Nigerian soldier fighting in the Burma campaign of World War Two. It is ambitious, darkly humorous and in soaring, scorching prose exposes the exploitative nature of the colonial project and the psychology of Independence.” read more.
1. Get Started: Emergency Tips
Is your short story assignment due tomorrow morning? These emergency tips may help. Good luck!
- Who is your protagonist, and what does he or she want?
(The athlete who wants her team to win the big game and the car crash victim who wants to survive are not unique or interesting enough.)
- When the story begins, what morally significant actions has he or she already taken towards that goal?
(“Morally significant” doesn’t mean your protagonist has to be conventionally “good”; rather, he or she should already have made a conscious choice, with repercussions that drive the rest of the story.)
- What unexpected consequences — directly related to the protagonist’s efforts to achieve the goal — ramp up the emotional energy of the story?
(Will the unexpected consequences force your protagonist to make yet another choice, leading to still more consequences?)
- What details from the setting, dialog, and tone help you tell the story?
(Things to cut: travel scenes, character A telling character B about something we just saw happening to character A, and phrases like “said happily” — it’s much better to say “bubbled” or “smirked” or “chortled.”)
- What morally significant choice does your protagonist make at the climax of the story?
(Your reader should care about the protagonist’s decision. Ideally, the reader shouldn’t see it coming.)
Drawing on real-life experiences, such as winning the big game, bouncing back after an illness or injury, or dealing with the death of a loved one, are attractive choices for students who are looking for… read more.
Ed. note: On July 11, 2011, this story won the Caine Prize for African Writing. Known as “the African Booker,” the Caine Prize is awarded annually for a short story in English by an African writer. The winner receives £10,000 and a residency at Georgetown University.
We are on our way to Budapest: Bastard and Chipo and Godknows and Sbho and Stina and me. We are going even though we are not allowed to cross Mzilikazi Road, even though Bastard is supposed to be watching his little sister Fraction, even though mother would kill me dead if she found out; we are going. There are guavas to steal in Budapest, and right now I’d die for guavas, or anything for that matter. My stomach feels like somebody just took a shovel and dug everything out.
Getting out of Paradise is not so hard since the mothers are busy with hair and talk. They just glance at us when we file past and then look away. We don’t have to worry about the men under the jacaranda either since their eyes never lift from the draughts. Only the little kids see us and want to follow, but Bastard just wallops the naked one at the front with a fist on his big head and they all turn back.
We are running when we hit the bush; Bastard at the front because he won country-game today and he thinks he rules, and then me and Godknows, Stina, and finally Chipo, who used to outrun everybody in Paradise but not anymore because her grandfather made her pregnant. After crossing Mzilikazi we slither through another bush, gallop along Hope Street past the big stadium with the glimmering benches we’ll never sit on. Finally we hit Budapest. We have to stop once for Chipo to rest.
“When are you going to have the baby anyway?” Bastard says. Bastard doesn’t like it when we have to stop for her. He even tried to get us not to play with her altogether.
“I’ll have it one day.”
“What’s one day? Tomorrow? Thursday? Next week?”
“Can’t you see her stomach is still small? The baby has to… red more.
Zimbabwe’s NoViolet Bulawayo has won the 2011 Caine Prize for African Writing, described as Africa’s
leading literary award, for her short story entitled ‘Hitting Budapest’
Translated from the Persian by Faridoun Farrokh
Who could imagine that the Shah, defeated and despondent, would leave his throne and his kingdom in the hands of some weird creatures (weird from my point of view) in beards, turbans, and black mantles? Who could foresee that aunt Badri’s house would be confiscated and that my father would die and be buried in Canada, of all places? We knew nothing about the cheats and tricks of the history. We couldn’t think that someday the impossible would become a fact of life.
We had a good life and believed that everything was in its right place. Apparently it wasn’t, and we weren’t aware. I was a senior in high school counting the days till I would enter the university. I would never have guessed that before long Tehran University would be closed and my dreams would fade away. Customarily, I spent the weekends at my aunt Badri’s. She had no children of her own, and her husband, Karim Pasha, lavished all his affection on the children in the family, especially on me—the favorite. He would even take me along with aunt Badri when he traveled abroad. Usually aunt Badri would wait for me at the school gate in her car, with a cigarette dangling from the corner of her mouth. Her bangs extended to eye-level, forcing her to tilt her head up to be able to see. She had an adolescent boy’s figure, lean and winsome, with long eyelashes, giving her an ingénue look. Sometimes she went out in the street wearing a tie, or her husband’s long, oversized coat.
After the installation of the Islamic regime, she refused to submit to the statute requiring women to wear the hijab. Instead, she would go out wearing her… read more.
The Granta Book of the African Short Story
edited by Helon Habila (Granta, £25)
Africa in the 21st century, carved into an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of countries (the latest being South Sudan), is no longer the empty space that once served to represent it on European maps. But African literature, to many outside the continent, tends to be a blank page, or at least a sparsely written one. In his introduction to The Granta Book of the African Short Story, the Nigerian writer Helon Habila laments the number of times he has attended a lecture on African literature that “begins and ends with Things Fall Apart, as if nothing has been written in Africa since 1958.” This new collection seeks to introduce readers to what he calls a “post-nationalist” generation of writers, those born largely after colonialism, for whom national politics are no longer a defining obsession—an obsession, Habila believes, that once restricted African writers’ ambition. “As long as people have freedom to think and discuss and travel and find fulfilment, and… read more.