Tram 83 and The Fisherman among nine books named on longlist for 2015 Etisalat Prize for Literature

2015 Etisalat Longlist

The longlist for the 2015 Etisalat Prize for Literature, which “rewards and recognizes debut fiction writers in Africa”, was announced today.

The nine books on the longlist are:

  • Ifeoluwapo Adeniyi (Nigeria), On the Bank of the River

“The Novel is a coming of story about a girl named Enitan and her love hate relationship with her mother. It chronicles the young girl’s search for love which makes her flee into the comforting embrace of her aunt. She struggles to understand life and the paradox of love and human relationships as she tries to come to terms with a terrible family secret.” (Review at adebayoadegbite)

  • Penny Busetto (South Africa), The Story of Anna P, as Told by Herself

“The novel, divided into three sections, told to the reader by voices alternatively taking the form of “I”, “she” and “you”, hinges on the simplest, yet most urgent, of premises: Anna P, without any concrete memory of why she is in Italy when originally from South Africa, is a primary school teacher on an island, fearing the day when a real teacher will come to take her place”. (Review at litnet)

The book won both the 2013 European Union Literary Award  and the 2014 University of Johannesburg Debut Prize

  • Z P Dala (South Africa), What About Meera

“…this book delivers an unrelentingly hard look at the multiple motives behind dehumanizing psychological and physical abuse. It unflinchingly portrays experiences that place Meera, the main character of the novel, on a trajectory that leads her well past her psychological breaking point.” (Review at KZN Literary Tourism)

  • Kurt Ellis (South Africa), By Any Means

“Kyle lives with his cousins Captain and Jimmy in his aunt’s matchbox house in Sydenham. While Kyle dreams of a football career, Captain is the gang leader of the Godfathers – his goal to save his cousins and his community from poverty by any means necessary. But his ambitions puts him in conflict with men far more ruthless than he is…” (Publishers’ blurb)

  • Paula Marais (South Africa), Shadow Self

“Thea is in jail. She is confused and disoriented, barely able to comprehend what is happening. The police escort her to a courtroom and she is asked to plead guilty or not guilty. It is unclear what crime has been committed. This is only revealed at the end of the novel though there are hints.” (Review at 2015 Reading Challenge- SA Books Only)

  • Fiston Mwanza Mujila (Democratic Republic of Congo), Tram 83 (translated from the French by translated by Robert Glasser

“Playful, even with all its dark edges, Tram 83 is a different kind of modern urban novel — City-State so alien and removed (it is very much a city apart) that much of this feels closer (especially in Mwanza Mujila’s presentation) to dystopic science fiction than the usual gritty realism”. (Review from The Complete Review)

Tram 83 has been awarded the Grand Prix SGDL du Premier Roman (for Debut Novel); Golden Medal in Literature of the VI Jeux de la Francophonie in Beirut and the Literary Prize of the City of Graz, Austria, 2014. It’s been shortlisted for the Prix du Monde (Le Monde Literary Prize), 2014, and the Prix Wepler-Fondation La Poste, 2014;

  • Masande Ntshanga (South Africa), The Reactive

“Set in Cape Town in the early 2000s, the story is delivered in the first person by Lindanathi, the principal protagonist, who has injected himself with the HI-virus” (Review at lwandile fikeni)

Masande Ntshanga was awarded 2013 PEN International New Voices Award and was shortlisted for 2015 Caine Prize for his story “Space”.

  • Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria), The Fishermen

The Fisherman needs no introduction, at least no this year. Man Booker finalist; winner FT/Oppenheimer Awards and others. Plus its on many “Best of” lists.

  • Rehana Rossouw (South Africa), What Will People Say?

“Rossouw manages to at once pull the reader back to the mid-1980s Cape Flats, with all its political difficulties, and tell an honest, sincere story about a family and its personal struggles.” (Review at news24)

My notes on the list:

  1. Six South Africans, 2 Nigerians and 1 Congolese – Only 3 African countries? What is happening?
  2.  One translated fiction (Tram 83) – I think this is a first.  We need more, far more. This year again, I note the absence of entries from North Africa. This is the 3rd edition of the prize and we’ve never seen a North African book on the longlist. I can’t understand this at all.  An Etisalat publicity caravan (or something) had better visit North African countries.
  3. I haven’t read any of the books yet. I’ve been wanting to read Tram 83 but I have to get my hands on a copy first. There’s so much buzz (well-deserved, I hear) about this book. Several on the longlist sound intriguing.
  4.  I’m now reading through the 2014 Etisalat longlist (things are slow at biblothèque Kinna) and I’m scratching my head at how one of my favs didn’t make the 2014 shortlist. The Etisalat judges keep mixing it up. I’m looking forward to how they handle this longlist!
  5. The 2015 shortlist will be announced in December 2015.
  6. This year’s judges are Ato Quayson, Molara Wood and Zukiswa Wanner

Molara Wood says: “The longlisted books push the boundaries in their themes and inventive use of language. This is a rich array of bold new writing on what it means to be human in the world today, by irresistible African voices.”

The full press release from Etisalat is here.

Good luck to all the writers!



  1. […] Etisalat Prize-longlisted books were sold in a frenzied manner at Aké. At some point after the last session of the day and before dinner, Lola announces that the Etisalat books are on sale at ₦1000 each (roughly $5) and folks would stampede for the books. Most wanted The Fisherman but quite a number of us desperately needed to get our hands on Tram 83. It was such drama; the arrival of Tram 83 was delayed by a day. […]


  2. Ive been trying to get books from other parts of Africa but they are not easily available in English so it doesn’t surprise me to find only 3 countries on the list. Disappointing though.


  3. I am almost finished “The Fishermen” by Chigozie Obioma, but I have to admit that I haven’t even heard of any of the rest – more my deficiency though!


  4. I read The Reactive this summer while in South Africa. It is a deceptively complex novel told with a blend of harsh realism and a magical realism. Ntshanga is a young writer who shows great promise. His novel will be published in the US in 2016 which is great news. It’s odd that South Africa dominates this list and yet most of these books don’t get release outside of that small and expensive market… not that writers generally get rich anywhere but a wider distribution never hurts. I also bought ZP Dala’s book just before I left the country, having heard about the violent attack on her at the Durban Book fair and to have a female Indian South African writer in my collection.


    • Yeah, I saw good stuff about The Reactive when I was putting together the post. Can’t wait to read it. Getting the books outside of SA, especially in another African country is such a hassle. Happy reading!


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