The judges of the 2023 James Currey Prize for African Literature have announced the shortlist of five finalists selected from the initial longlist of 11, earlier unveiled on August 10, 2023.
A release signed by the head of the 7-man jury, Henry Akubuiro, gave the shortlist in no particular order as:
Bolga by Bus by A.G. Agambila (Ghana)
Akala by William Ifeanyi Moore (Nigeria)
Legend of a Beach House by Peter Ngila Njeri (Kenya)
Black Fractures in Exile by Limpho Sechele (South Africa)
A Dangerous Job for a Woman by Patricia Brickhill (Zimbabwe)
“The winner of the 2023 James Currey Prize for African Literature will be announced at the African Literature Festival taking place in Oxford, UK, 1-3 September, 2023,” stated Akubuiro, the journalist-writer, who is assisted in the jury by Nneoma Otuegbe, Tatiana Cassiano, Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, Javier Gutierrez Lozano, Debbie Edwards, and Masande Ntshanga.
Giving hint of the contents of the five finalists, the jury explained:
In Bolga by Bus, A.G. Agambila takes the reader on a roller-coaster ride from Tema in Ghana’s Greater Accra Region to Bolga in Northern Ghana, through the keen eyes of a teenager, Musah, told with a thrilling, descriptive power, a touch of history and a whiff of epicurean culture. It is a journey of self-discovery, cultural immersion and self-sacrifice, signposting a holistic approach to human trafficking in contemporary Africa.
Akala by William Ifeanyi Moore is a surrealist fiction, replete with allusions, predicated on the historical intercourse between the West and Africa, set in a culturally thriving pre-colonial Nigerian society with an established code of conducts, justice system and social mores. It’s an exhilarating work exploring tragic destinies and liminal spaces with idiosyncratic idioms, against the backdrop of an emasculating war that leaves a trail of irredeemable, individual and collective casualties.
Legend of a Beach House by Peter Ngila Njeri is a haunting story with a looping plot and a futuristic flavour, using the Beach House as a metaphor for human contradictions and soul searching. It flags deceptions and religiosity while exploring the schisms between sinners and “saints”. In re-examining the mysteries of life, it offers a deep insight into man’s nebulous, aerial borders, as the author manages an intricate time warp.
Limpho Sechele’s Black Fractures in Exile is a titillating read with snatches of longing and benumbing despair. At the heart of the narrative is unrequited love and lingering, tortuous pains that go with heartbreak. It’s a work that questions youthful exuberance, especially how carelessness could take the wind off the sail of a vibrant lover. Sechele takes more than a cursory look at human chemistry, burrowing into emotions and catharsis.
A Dangerous Job for a Woman by Patricia Brickhill is a cappuccino detective story, told with humour and a dollop of social commentary. It follows a female ZRP detective who gets wind of a crime about to be committed, trailing the suspect around Zimbabwe and to Mozambique, where matters come to a head, setting the tone for an engrossing ending.
The James Currey Prize for African Literature is sponsored by the James Currey Society, Oxford, UK