Literature | The Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things, Caine Prize 2016
Blurb – ‘A man accused of sexual harassment tells the bizarre tale of the Lifebloom gift, which is accessed through the moles on people’s skin… In the late 21st century a mathematical formula has been discovered that allows a few gifted people to relieve others of their grief – but at what cost? … A son charts the disintegration of his mother and family, Nigerian immigrants to Utah … The rivalries and rifts between two cousins raised as twins are recalled as one lies dead before the other… A girl acts as protector when her sister’s mental-health problems cause consternation in a South African village…’
The Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things and Other Stories, The Caine Prize for African Writing 2016 is a collection of short stories that brings together authors from across the continent including Somalia, Kenya, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.
The book comprises five authors shortlisted for the 2016 Caine Prize and 12 writers who took part in the Caine Prize Writers’ Workshop.
I feel this book provides something for everyone, with its mixture of genres. Two stories that had me particularly gripped were ‘The Goat’ by Tope Folarin and ‘Koba Umwine – Peel Yourself’ by Chilufya Chilangwa.
‘The Goat’ by Tope Folarin – The Goat tells the story of a young boy whose extensive eating habits lead to an unfortunate outcome. Undoubtedly a page turner, I did not realise how invested I was into the plot until the last page, when a realisation dawned as to what was about to happen. An excellent example of more being said with less, this story kept my interest with its momentum and left me shocked by its ending – so much so that I actually let out a large gasp followed by an elongated ‘no’ whilst reading this on public transport.
‘Koba Umwine – Peel Yourself’ by Chilufya Chilangwa – The story of two newlyweds whose marriage gets off to a very rocky start, this story left me wanting more. Set in one of my favourite places, Zanzibar, I felt a longing to find out what became of the couple, if things between them became resolved, and if yes, how so. As a result, I hoped that it was a snippet of a full length novel, but a search for it on the internet proved futile. Maybe one day.
One of the best things that this annual collection of short stories does, is introduce us to new, upcoming, and already established authors that we may not have had prior knowledge of.
There were also some stories that I found harder to get into, that did not catch my attention from the beginning and thus was unable to retain it. With these, I found myself skipping through with a promise to return later. Later did come, but with it a notable effort to complete said stories, rather than out of any interest. However, where I struggled, another reader may sail through and vice versa.
With this book catering to all with its multitude of genres, the Caine Prize provides these creative African writers with an international platform to showcase their talents. My book collection will definitely be increasing as a result!
Have you read ‘The Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things and Other Stories’ yet? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!