"Waiting" by E. C. Osundu (Nigeria) won the 2009 Caine Prize for best short story by a person from Africa. I have posted on the 2010 price winner, "Stick Fighting Days" by Olufemi Terry as well as the four stories short listed for the 2010 prize. The Caine Prize is considered Africa's Leading Literary award. Entry is open to anyone from an African country and the form of work is the short shory. The patrons of the prize include three African winners of the Nobel Prize for literature, Nadine Gordimer, J. M. Coetzee and Wole Soyinka. Chinua Achebe, winner of the International Man Booker prize, is also a patron. The award comes with 10,000 British Pounds and is given out annually at a celebratory event in Oxford. The short story is seen as a continuation of the tradition of African story telling which is one of the reasons the award focuses on that genre. The award began in 2000.
"Waiting" is about children in a refugee camp waiting to be adopted by American families. An adoption agency takes pictures of them and sends them to prospective parents.
Recently I have been reading a lot of short stories. The world depicted in "Waiting" is a very long way from the worlds of Mansfield, Woolf, or de Maupassant. "Waiting" is conveyed in simple straightforward way and in so doing takes us deeply into the outlook of the children in the camp. As the story opens we see the children are all wearing hand me down t-shirts that nobody in America wants any more. The narrator is named "Orlando Raki" because his T-shirt says Orlando and he was found abandoned in the town of Raki by the International Red Cross. The children all have fantasies of life in America while they dodge the many things that could bring quick meaningless ends to their lives. This can be anything from being torn apart by a pack of wild dogs to being killed for sport by soldiers little more than children themselves. To the children this is nothing extraordinary just life as normal. For sure "Waiting" is worth the time it takes to read it and will give us look at a world very far from how we live.
The full story can be read online here