Namwali Serpell’s story “The Sack” was selected as the winner of this year’s Caine Prize, the top accolade for African short story writers.
Her story was described as “truly luminous” by judges.
The £10,000 award, which counts African winners of the Nobel prize for literature Wole Soyinka and JM Coetzee amongst its patrons, is for a short story by an African writer published in English.
Serpell, an associate professor of English in the University of California, Berkeley, won for ‘The Sack’ a story which explores the power struggle between two men, one very ill, and the woman who came between them.
Serpell said her story was about two men who had known each other since childhood, how they have gone through “a long process of trying to build a political movement together, which failed, and in the process falling in love with the same woman, who died.It’s about trying to come to terms with that”.
South African author and chair of the panel of judges Zo? Wicomb praised the story, calling it “formally innovative, stylistically stunning, haunting and enigmatic in its effects.
Serpell has said that she will share her money with the runners up. Winning the prize, she said, didn’t seem real until she managed to tell her family in Zambia. “It was a real honour just to be on the shortlist,” she added.