Bushra al-Fadil is the winner of the 2017 Caine Prize for African Writing for his short story, entitled “The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away.”
Al-Fadil is a Sudanese-born writer based in Saudi Arabia. His most recent collection, “Above a City’s Sky,” was published in 2012. Al-Fadil is also a winner of the al-Tayeb Salih Short Story Award and holds a Ph.D. in Russian language and literature.
Bushra’s winning entry “The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away” vividly describes life in a bustling market through the eyes of the narrator who becomes entranced by a beautiful woman he sees there one day. After a series of brief encounters, tragedy unexpectedly befalls the woman and her young female companion.
Nii Ayikwei Parkes, the chairman of the panel of judges of the Caine Prize, praised Bushra’s work, saying, “The winning story is one that explores through metaphor and an altered, inventive mode of perception — including, for the first time in the Caine Prize, illustration — the allure of, and relentless threats to freedom rooted in a mix of classical traditions as well as the vernacular contexts of its location.”
The £10,000 Caine Prize for African Writing is considered one of Africa’s foremost literary awards. Founded in the United Kingdom in 2000, the award is named after Sir Michael Harris Caine, the former chair of the prestigious Booker Prize Committee.
The prize is awarded annually for a short story of less than 10,000 words and published in English by an African writer.
Al-Fadil’s story was written in Arabic but translated into English by Max Shmookkler, which according to the award’s rules, means the prize money will be split with £7,000 going to al-Fadil and £3,000 to Shmookler.
Other African writers shortlisted for the 2017 Caine Prize include Lesley Nneka Arimah (Nigeria) for “Who Will Greet You At Home,” Chikodili Emelumadu (Nigeria) for “Bush Baby,” Arinze Ifeakandu (Nigeria) for “God’s Children Are Little Broken Things,” and Magogodioa Mphela Makhene (South Africa) for “The Virus.”
As the winner of the 2017 Caine Prize, al-Fadil will be given an opportunity to take up residence at Georgetown University at the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice. He will also be invited to speak at the Library of Congress.
Past winners of the Caine Prize include Nigerian Helon Habila (2001), Kenyan Binyavanga Wainaina (2002), Zimbabwean NoViolet Bulawayo (2011), and South African Lidudumalingani (2016).
Bushra is the second Sudanese to win the Caine Prize after Leila Aboulela won the maiden award in 2000.