Nigerian writer, Rotimi Babatunde, was last night announced by the Chair of the Caine Prize judges panel, Bernadine Evaristo, as the winner of this year’s prize in a dinner ceremony held at the Bodelaine Library, Oxford. Babatunde’s story, “Bombay’s Republic” was shortlisted with four others from a total of 122 short stories entered for the competition.
“Bombay’s Republic” was described by Evaristo as “ambitious, darkly humorous, and in soaring, scorching prose (it) exposes the exploitative nature of the colonial project and the psychology of Independence.” It tells the story of a Nigerian man who drafted to fight in World War 2, and who subsequently became a member of the Forgotten Army. Bombay returned to his country, with his illusions and sense of identity shifted by the illuminating as well as traumatic nature of war, to effect changes never been dared before. See below, the passage read by 2004 Caine Prize shortlister, Chika Unigwe, at the award dinner:
“Bombay was deeply shocked by the Captain’s fate. he remembered the white-jacketed District Officer back home with his manicured nails and the imperious airs of one in absolute control of the cosmos, the white man oozing superiority over the khaki clad native police constables as if merely exercising his natural birthright. That the Captain, a country man of the colonial administrator, had degenerated to a condition that pitiful meant the impeccable District Officer could likewise descend to the same animal depths. Bombay had seen a lot in war. Diarrhoeic Europeans pestered by irreverent flies while the men shat like domestic livestock in the open. Blue eyes rolling in mortal fear as another enemy shell whistled past. But never before had he imagined one of his imperial masters degenerating into a state so wretched. He found it good to know that it was also possible.”