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Central African Rep
Must Watch Videos
Al Jazeera Correspondent: The Burma Boy
Five minutes with Rotimi Babatunde
Toni Kan | Tue, 17 Jul 2012
Rotimi Babatunde emerged victorious as the Caine Prize winner for 2012 beating off competition from from four other contenders: Billy Kahora, Stanley Kenani, Melissa Tandiwe Myambo and Constance Myburgh, to become the fourth Nigerian writer to take the prize since its inception.
DSTV.com asked Babatunde what the prize means for him.
Congratulations. You have joined elite and enviable company, how does it feel?
won the prize, not its author, so I only collected the award in trust for the story.
Surely, I am delighted the story has been singled out for recognition from such a strong shortlist but, rather than reveling in past achievements, I am more interested in the future. Completing the literary projects I have in progress will give me greater pleasure than resting on past laurels.
I believe that, for any writer worth his salt, winning a literary prize is not an arrival, just a new beginning.
You said in an interview that you wrote this story because you feel the story of the Africans in the Burma campaign has been under-told. Do you think your win will change things significantly?
In addition to commemorating the contribution of African soldiers to the war effort, I was also interested in exploring how a major historical event can radically transform a character's sense of self and reality.
Interrogating the past is critical to understanding the roots of the present and I believe we need fresh fictional takes on important moments in our national history.
has contributed its own bit to documenting the participation of African soldiers in the Burma campaign, but I hope more fictional works tackling that era from new angles will be written by other people. This expectation applies not only to WWII but also to other epochs in African history.
Most people know you as a playwright? Where did the fiction come from?
I am equally comfortable working in the three main genres of literature: drama, fiction, and poetry. I actually began writing prose fiction long before I started composing plays.
My plays have been more visible in the public domain simply because many of them were commissioned so they have to be delivered at a specific time. I didn't have the liberty to keep revising them for years as I do my works in poetry and prose fiction.
is an appreciably long short story. Is there a novel in there somewhere?
The story seems complete as it is, but who knows. Only time will tell.
Tell us what writing means to you.
A flight from the predictable and the cliched. I am convinced that the avoidance of the hackneyed in the use of language and in the habits of perception is indispensable to attaining a truer and more vital knowledge of human experience.
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