Prestigious Caine Prize Winner Visits Georgetown as Writer-in-Residence
February 11, 2013 – A Nigerian author who won the 2012 Caine Prize for African Writing for a short story about a World War II soldier is on campus through Feb. 25 as a writer-in-residence at Georgetown.
Rotimi Babtunde won the prestigious prize, described as Africa’s leading literary award, for “Bombay’s Republic,” in which the from colonial Africa soldier fights in Asia as part of the British army and is inspired to set up his own personal country within his home country after the war.
The prize has been awarded for the past 12 years to an outstanding African writer, who receives more than $16,000 and a residency at Georgetown.
He will deliver a reading of his work tomorrow in Georgetown's Copley Formal Lounge.
Babtunde, whose residency began Feb. 9, has been giving readings, literary talks and lectures around the world since he won the prize in July. He says he’s looking forward to sharing his work and experience at the university.
“Georgetown is one of America’s foremost intellectual centers,” says the author, playwright and poet. “I am keenly looking forward to interacting with literary minds connected with the institution.”
The award-winning writer’s residency includes talks with members of the university’s literary community, conducting creative-writing workshops for students and working on some of his own manuscripts.
Gift for Dialogue
His interest in veterans goes back to his earliest years.
“It was in childhood that I first came in contact with stories about the veterans who returned from Burma,” explains Babatunde, of Ibadan, Nigeria. “Some years ago when I began a series of narratives exploring Nigeria’s history from pre-colonial times to the present, I thought it important to make the experience of the veterans central to one of the narratives.”
Georgetown English professor Samantha Pinto says Babatunde has a gift for dialogue and precise description that draws readers into the narrative world of the story’s main character.
“[The story] has a powerful, original narrative voice that recalls and resists the work of Joseph Conrad,” says Pinto, who served on Caine prize jury that selected Babatunde’s work.
Since winning the prize, Babatunde says he’s been able to share his literary voice more often and in more places and is looking forward to doing the same when he arrives in D.C.
“The Caine Prize does not only call attention to striking literary voices from the geographical and social diversity called Africa,” he says, “the award also stimulates debate about new directions being forged by writers with links to the continent.”
The Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice at Georgetown, based in the English department, is a literary, critical, and pedagogical undertaking devoted to poetry and poetics in the contemporary world. The Caine Prize Residency is one of the center's programs.
For more information about the program and the Feb. 12 reading, visit the Lannan Center’s website.