EPL 2015: Mujila, Busetto, Rossouw know fate march 19
On Saturday, March 19, 2016, at Intercontinental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, the winner of the 2015 Etisalat Prize for Literature (EPL) will be announced at a grand ceremony. The month-long tension and anxiety that have characterised the pitch for the 2015 edition will reach its climax, with one of the three shortlisted debut fiction writers of African origin, who are neck-to-neck in the epic final battle, named winner. Who will that new crowned force of African literature be?
Without any doubt, the yearly Prize has assumed the flagship status among other literary initiatives in its competitive set. It also incorporates the Flash Fiction category as a strategic measure to celebrate unpublished writers across the continent and challenge budding writers to create compelling stories. The Prize was launched in 2013 as a platform to promote creativity and talent development in Africa.
In its few years, it has significantly contributed to the growth of African literature as well as giving the continent a louder global voice. This is evident in the number and quality of participation and the window of opportunity it has afforded some of the past winners. For example, winner of the 2013 edition, NoViolet Bulawayo of Zimbabwe and her winning book, We Need New Names, has gone on to win more accolades including the prestigious Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award and Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University.
In 2014, Songeziwe Mahlangu of South Africa emerged winner with his novel, Penumbra, ahead of his contemporaries, Nigerian Chinelo Okparanta, author of Happiness, Like Water and South African, Nadia Davids, author of An Imperfect Blessing. Neema Komba of Tanzania was also announced winner in the Flash Fiction category of the Etisalat Prize for same year. She won a cash prize of £1,000 for her entry Setting Babu on Fire. The runners up, Chinua Ezenwa-Ohaeto, writer of the short story, I Saved my Marriage and Irabor Justin Ikhide, writer of the short story, These Words I Do Not Speak, were presented with a cash prize of £500 each.
This year, the three finalists on the pitch are, Fiston Mwanza Mujila of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Africa’s duo of Penny Busetto and Rehana Rossouw. While Mujila’s book, Tram 83 earned him a space in the final list, Busetto got on the list with her work, The Story of Anna P, as Told by Herself while Rossouw’s What Will People Say? gave her a place.
Indeed, come Saturday the stake will be much higher because the competition presents a very interesting mix: one male author versus two female authors or one DRC citizen versus two South Africans.
What about the all-encompassing rewards for the winner: £15,000 cash, engraved Montblanc Meisterstück pen and Etisalat-sponsored fellowship at the University of East Anglia, including mentoring by Professor Giles Foden, author of The Last King of Scotland.
In addition to the great rewards for the winner, all the three shortlisted writers will enjoy a sponsored multi-city book tour and have 1,000 copies of their books purchased by Etisalat for distribution to schools, libraries and book clubs across the African continent.
It has been a fierce contest all the way. At the submission of entries for the literary prize earlier last year, writers from across the continent submitted over 100 titles.
Each of the 100 titles was reviewed by the esteemed three-member judging panel: Professor Ato Quayson, a professor of English and inaugural Director of the Centre for Diaspora Studies at the University of Toronto (Chair of Judges); Molara Wood, writer, journalist, critic and editor; and Zukiswa Wanner, author of Men of the South and London Cape Town Joburg.
After the rigorous month-long review, nine longlisted titles were announced in November 2015. The panel did a further review of the nine books and released the shortlist in December 2015, thus setting the stage for the three finalists to compete for the ultimate prize.
Fiston Mwanza Mujila (Tram 83)
A RECIPIENT of French Voices 2014 grant and winner of the Grand Prix du Premier Roman des SGDL, Mujila’s book had also been shortlisted for numerous other awards, including the Prix du Monde. Tram 83 has also drawn comparisons to Fitzgerald, Céline, García Márquez, Hunter S. Thompson and even a painting by Hyeronimous Bosch or a piece by Coltrane. of French Voices 2014 grant and winner of the Grand Prix du Premier Roman des SGDL, Mujila’s book had also been shortlisted for numerous other awards, including the Prix du Monde. Tram 83 has also drawn comparisons to Fitzgerald, Céline, García Márquez, Hunter S. Thompson and even a painting by Hyeronimous Bosch or a piece by Coltrane.
Tram 83 is the story of Requiem, a gangster rapidly gaining power and influence in a fictional, dystopian African city and his friend, Lucien, a writer who visits him and is sucked into Requiem’s corrupt empire and the city’s outrageously extravagant, filthy-glamorous nightlife.
Born in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo, in 1981, Mujila studied Literature and Human Sciences at Lubumbashi University. He now lives in Graz, Austria and is pursuing a PhD in Romance Languages.
Penny Busetto (The Story of Anna P, as Told by Herself)
BUSETTO’S book, The Story of Anna P, as Told by Herself is a novel set principally on the island of Ponza, off the Italian mainland, but has a haunting South African backstory that edges into the narrative about a fifth of the way in. The fictional novel won the 2013 European Union Literary Award as well as the 2014 University of Johannesburg Debut Prize.
Busetto grew up in Cape Town, but moved to Italy when she was 17, where she studied and married. She moved back to Cape Town in 1996, and is currently pursuing her doctorate in English and psychology.
Rehana Rossouw (What Will People Say?)
WHAT Will People Say? by Rossouw is a story of the Fourie family, residents of Hanover Park in the Cape Flats during the height of the struggle era. The main characters include Magda, the church-going mother, who doesn’t see what’s going on in front of her; Neville, the concerned and loving but not always effectual father; Suzette, the oldest daughter, who is bound and determined to get away and make a better life for herself via a career in modelling. Nicky, the smart and sensitive middle child, who proves herself capable of making unselfish choices; and Anthony, the naïve and doomed son, who gets caught up with a gang and meets a sad end.
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