Not the Caine Prize


Since 2004, Le Salon africain (part of the annual Geneva Book Fair) awards the Ahmadou Kourouma Prize to an ‘African oeuvre, essay or fiction that reflects the spirit of independence and creativity which is the heritage of [Ivorian novelist] Ahmadou Kourouma’. This year the Prize goes to Rwandan author Scholastique Mukasonga for her latest novel ‘Notre-Dame du Nil’. Of the past 8 winning books, not one is available in English:

2011 Photo de groupe au bord du fleuve (Emmanuel Dongala)
2010 Si la cour du mouton est sale, ce n’est pas au porc de le dire (Florent Couao-Zotti)
2009 Solo d’un revenant (Kossi Efoui)
2008 Le Bal des princes (Nimrod)
2007 Le paradis des chiots (Sami Tchak)
2006 Babyface (Koffi Kwahulé)
2005 Matins de couvre-feu (Tanella Boni)
2004 Survivantes, Rwanda 10 ans après (Esther Mujawayo & Souad Belhaddad)

In a recent profile of French-Congolese (RC) author Alain Mabanckou, the L.A. Times blames “the parochial tastes and pinched profit margins of the U.S. publishing industry [for] hav[ing] restricted Mabanckou’s visibility on U.S. bookshelves”. I can’t think of any other reason why these 9 Prize-winning works haven’t yet been translated. By not doing so, the Anglophone publishers are keeping their readers from accessing a Francophone world of imagination that spans more than a quarter of the African continent — not to mention the Francophone diaspora. Don’t tell me there’s no interest.

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8 thoughts on “Not the Caine Prize

  1. Thanks for this reminder–how can we petition Random House to do this? They publish at least two of Kouruma’s books in English translation.

  2. Why petition any publishers? Sounds like a business opportunity to me for any enterprising person who cares. In addition, since when did the USA become the guardian of English publishing? These could easily be translated and published by any English speaking country based publishers. A more thorough investigation might be worth it and help provide an enterprising solution.

    • Indeed. The notion that literature from Africa is dependent on US publishers or on an American readership for validation is troubling. If this project does have any viability shouldn’t publishers in Anglophone African countries be the logical ones to take it on?

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