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Reem Gaafar: Winner of the Island Prize 2023

by | Jun 17, 2023 | Articles and Reports, News

Sudanese writer wins Island Prize

Sudanese author Reem Gaafar has won the Island Prize 2023 for her unpublished novel A Mouth Full of Salt.   The Island Prize is awarded to debut novels from Africa.

 

The book’s synopsis reads: “During the search for a drowned boy in the north of Sudan, a strange woman appears and with her a series of strange and tragic events. Animals die of a mysterious illness; the date tree field catches fire and burns to the ground; a young girl dies. The women in this story are trapped in a gender and racial hierarchy, with ingrained bigotry blaming all change in society on evil outside forces.”

 The Island Prize was established in 2022 and is aimed at unpublished African writers, with ‘African’ defined as authors born in or having citizenship of any African country.  The prize was set up by the South African author Karen Jennings, in association with British indie publisher Holland House and South African indie Karavan Press.  It takes its name from Jennings’ 2021 Booker longlisted novel.

 At the time of the launch Jennings said: “As African writers, we are often faced with a double dose of challenges.  Firstly, getting published within African countries can be incredibly difficult because local publishers are often constrained by finances. Secondly, for many writers getting published overseas is almost impossible because the rest of the world has certain ideas of what an ‘African story’ should be. Having experienced these challenges first-hand—being told that a novel is ‘too African’ or ‘not African enough’—I know how important it is that stories from Africa be given a wide variety of platforms so that they can be shared at home and abroad without the need to fit certain moulds. 

 “I am proud to be part of The Island Prize for a Debut Novel from Africa, a competition where the judges are African and where the winners have an opportunity of being published both in the UK and in South Africa. This is one step towards bridging the gap between here and there, us and them. In fact, it is through prizes like these that authors across the continent can gain the confidence to tell stories as they wish. The hope is that, with time, such stories will become appreciated across the globe, without first being labelled as an exception or a surprise.”

 

The winner receives £500, with £200 for the runners-up.  More importantly, the winner will also receive valuable exposure which may lead to a publishing deal.

 

 

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