Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Short story review

My short story, 'Devotion' has been reviewed in the Independent. More here.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Roads Ahead

My short story 'Devotion' is published in an anthology of short stories, Roads Ahead edited by Catherine O'Flynn. It is available to buy here.

There's also a review of the book here.

In 1999 a spiky collection of young writing was put together by the Tindal Street imprint, the first on a prize-winning road ahead. Receiving critical acclaim for its energy and variety, and awarded an Arts Council publishing prize, Hard Shoulder kick-started the careers of many young writers, editors and publishers. Ten years on, Tindall Street Press celebrates a decade of publishing – and commitment to the short story and wealth of regional writing talent with Roads Ahead.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Kachi Ozumba's Shadow of a Smile

Kachi Ozumba's first novel Shadow of a Smile is now out. The story: Torn from his father and a loving sister, the young student Zuba is imprisoned for a crime he has not even thought about committing. His misfortune: to live in a world where corruption is rife and honest and law-abiding people are crushed by the wheels of a blind, unscrupulous bureaucracy. More here.

Uwem Akpan humbled by Oprah pick

Nigerian author Uwem Akpan, who is a Jesuit priest, said he was "humbled" that his debut collection of short stories was chosen by influential U.S. talk show host Oprah Winfrey for her book club. More here.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Now you can talk!

You are inches away from God is Good Telephone Centre – a rickety structure with rusted metal roofs. The man inside the cubicle is ranting on the mobile phone. You imagine his wife on the other end, defiant, bellowing back. You picture her at her oven hot home, tapping her foot on the floor, waving at the kids, and urging them to be quiet. Noisy motorcycles rattle past. A skinny dog barks. This is Lagos.

In the hotel room, you switch on your television set. The presenter announces that Africa is now the world's fastest-growing cell phone market. The number of mobile users in Africa is growing at double the rate of the rest of the globe. From 1999 through 2004, mobile subscribers in Africa jumped to 76.8 million, from 7.5 million, an average annual increase of 58 percent.

The revelation tickles your ears, takes you by surprise. Your cold fingers clutch the coffee table. You have never thought Africans to be great telephone users. How could these people, with their tribal strives and diseases, afford the luxury of a telephone? They were too poor - living on $2 a day or less, they were supposed to be too poor to justify corporate investments in mobile telecommunications outside the more prosperous continents. The newscaster takes you on a voyage, tells you that when African nations began to privatize their telephone monopolies in the mid-1990's, and competitive operators began to sell air time in smaller, cheaper units, mobile phone use exploded. Demand for air time was so strong in Nigeria that from late 2002 to early 2003 operators there were forced to suspend the sale of SIM cards, while they strengthened their networks.

In the beginning, people in the remote villages were so eager for service that they built ‘treehouses’ to catch signals from distant mobile phone masts. Beads of perspiration appear on your forehead. You and your Western friends would have invoked the laws of health and safety. Risk assessment. Fire drills. Evacuation. Yesterday, you met an old woman unable even to write her last name, telling customers to call her mobile phone if they wanted to buy the akara she sold. Time stood still and framed for you then. You stood and watched the woman, in her pale blue dress.

The sun is setting. The sky wraps around itself a purple hue. It makes you want to weep. You have always known Africans to be ingenious. Look at what they did to the English language. They added a bit of this and that, and came out with the Pidgin language. But you didn’t think that they would carry their ingenuity over to the mobile phones. In order to save calling units, most people in Nigeria resort to a practice called ‘flashing’ which means just to dial a number, let it ring once or twice and then hang up before the person called is able to touch a button. In Kenya, they have introduced a service called M-Pesa. This is simply an extra line on the mobile phone menu that says: "Send Money". With this, people go to an office, transfer funds onto their phone account, and then send them to their friends, or family, or anybody else with a mobile. The receivers then go to an office, show the code on the mobile and some ID, and collect the cash.

Music oozes from the TV. You feel comforted, becalmed by the African beats. Analysts have agreed that the technology revolution has come to African countries via the mobile phone, not the personal computer, as it did in America and Europe. And just as the internet encouraged the creation of some dotcom firms, the mobile phone boom in Africa may create the same sort of businesses, but tailored to local needs.

You become aware of your heart thumping, of the blood thudding in your ears. By the year 2012, around 485-million people in Africa will be mobile phone users. Increasingly mobile phones firms in Africa are encouraging users to venture online via their handsets.

You have always loved literature. In Things Fall Apart, you discovered the rich Igbo culture. South Africans have now launched the first text based entertainment, fiction written specifically for the mobile phone. Novel Idea inspires innovative content creation on the mobile platform. The pilot, which launched on 7 July 2008, is apparently the first time short fiction has been specifically commissioned for delivery via mobile phones in Africa. It has also been a unique way to promote professional South African writers.

The mobile phone revolution tells us of the ability of the silenced to triumph over adversity. It tells us that Africa has not been swallowed by history; Africa too knows how to swallow history!

Monday, 22 June 2009

Debut novelist takes €100,000 Impac Dublin prize

A debut novelist who says he's never really had a proper job has won the world's richest literary award. American writer Michael Thomas beat authors including Philip Roth, Doris Lessing and Joyce Carol Oates to take the €100,000 (£85,000) Impac Dublin prize with his debut novel, Man Gone Down. More here.

Oyeyemi's White is for Witching

Anyone who has read those earlier books, The Icarus Girl and The Opposite House, will find themselves in familiar territory, as Oyeyemi revisits a few of their themes: haunted houses, unquiet memories, female insanity, twins, eating disorders. More here.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

The Penguin Prize for African Writing

Penguin Books has announced a new literary award for writers from the African continent. The Penguin Prize for African Writing has two categories: a previously unpublished full-length work of adult fiction and one of non-fiction. The prize in each category will be R50 000 and a publishing contract with Penguin Books South Africa, with worldwide distribution via Penguin Group companies. More here

Friday, 6 March 2009

The Jacksons

Seems to me that the Jacksons will always be in the news. LaToya featured in this year's Celebrity Big Brother. Marlon is involved in a controversial development to turn a former slave port into a luxury resort that will house a Jackson Five museum, five-star hotel and slavery memorial. The king himself Michael, has announced a series of comeback concerts at the O2 arena in London. Stepping through the red curtains at the O2 arena in London to the hysterical screams of his loyal fans, the King of Pop almost seemed like his old self once more.
There were broad smiles, sparkling silver and jewels adorning his black jacket, and waves and peace signs for his army of followers. More here.

Dialogue Among Civilisations

“Dialogue among Civilisations” forms the basis for a new initiative by Art for Humanity. It involves collaboration between artists and poets from Africa and those countries who participated in the 2006 Soccer World Cup. The participants will be invited to create work on the theme of identity, land, object and belief.

More details here