These authors were shortlisted for the 2016 edition of its pan-African flagship literary prize, the Etisalat Prize for Literature – Jowhor Ile, Jacqui L’Ange and Julie Iromuanya. The three-member judging panel comprising Nigerian novelist/poet, Helon Habila (Chair of Judges); South African writer/activist, Elinor Sisulu; and Ivorian writer and Africa39 laureate, Edwige Renée Dro. The Chair of Judges, Helon Habila said, “In addition to originality of voice and literary excellence, our purpose was to also select a work that portrays an “African sensibility”.
The shortlisted books are –
And After Many Days (Kachifo Limited, Nigeria) – Jowhor Ile (Nigeria)
And After Many Days introduces Ile’s spellbinding ability to tightly weave together personal and political loss until, inevitably, the two threads become nearly indistinguishable. It is a masterful story of childhood, of the delicate, complex balance between the powerful and the powerless, and a searing portrait of a community as the old order gives way to the new. In a tale that moves seamlessly back and forth through time, Ajie relives a trip to the family’s ancestral village where, together, he and his family listen to the myths of how their people settled there, while the villagers argue over the mysterious Company, who found oil on their land and will do anything to guarantee support. As the story builds towards its stunning conclusion, it becomes clear that only once past and present come to a crossroads will Ajie and his family finally find the answers they have been searching for.
The Seed Thief (Umuzi Publishers, South Africa) – Jacqui L’Ange (South Africa)
The Seed Thief is a modern love story with an ancient history, a tale that moves from flora of Table Mountain to the heart of Afro-Brazilian spiritualism. Sometimes the thing you find is not the one you were looking for. When botanist Maddy Bellani is asked to travel to Brazil to collect rare seeds from a plant that could cure cancer, she reluctantly agrees. Securing the seeds would be a coup for the seed bank in Cape Town where she works, but Brazil is the country of her birth and home to her estranged father. Her mission is challenging, despite the help of alluring local plantexpert Zé. The plant specimen is elusive, its seeds guarded by a sect wary of outsiders. Maddy must also find her way in a world influenced by unscrupulous pharmaceutical companies and the selfish motives ofothers.
Mr & Mrs Doctor (Coffee House Press, USA) – Julie Iromuanya (Nigeria)
Ifi and Job, a Nigerian couple in an arranged marriage, begin their lives together in Nebraska with a single, outrageous lie: that Job is a doctor, not a college dropout. Unwittingly, Ifi becomes his co-conspirator—that is until his first wife, Cheryl, whom he married for a green card years ago, reenters the picture and upsets Job’s tenuous balancing act.
The winner of the Prize receives £15,000, an engraved Montblanc Meisterstück pen, an Etisalat sponsored book tour to three African countries as well an Etisalat-sponsored fellowship at the University of East Anglia, mentored by Professor Giles Foden, author of The Last King of Scotland. Also all the shortlisted writers will also enjoy a sponsored multi-city book tour while Etisalat will also purchase 1,000 copies of their books for distribution to schools, libraries and book clubs across Africa with the objective of promoting the reading culture and the publishing industry at large.