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Winner of African writing prize announced

CAINE PRIZE WINNER: Tope Folarin

NIGERIAN AUTHOR Tope Folarin has been named the winner of the 14th Caine Prize for African Writing.

Folarin won the prize with his short story entry Miracle.

The announcement happened last night at a special dinner at University of Oxford’s famous Bodleian Library.

Art historian and broadcaster Gus Casely-Hayford, chair of the judges, broke the news of the fiction writer claiming the prize and the £10,000 that comes along with it.

Miracle follows events concerning an evangelical Nigerian church in Texas where people gather to witness the healing powers of a blind pastor-prophet.

Folarin’s prose explores the themes of religion, deceit and gullibility that surround belief and faith, using the character of a young boy to navigate this world.

Here in a selected extract from Miracle, Folarin writes: “The tinny Nigerian gospel music ends when the pastor stands, and he prays over us again. He prays so long and so hard that we feel the weight of his words pressing down on us.

“His prayer is so insistent, so sincere, that his words emerge from the dark chrysalis of his mouth as bright, fluttering prophesies. In our hearts we stop asking if and begin wondering when our deeply held wishes will come true.

“After his sweating and shaking and cajoling he shouts another Amen, a word that now seems defiant, not pleading. We echo his defiance as loudly as we can, and when we open our eyes we see him pointing to the back of the church.”

In awarding the prize to the writer, Casely-Hayford praised his work and said: “Tope Folarin's Miracle is another superb Caine Prize winner – a delightful and beautifully paced narrative, that is exquisitely observed and utterly compelling”.

Folarin was educated at Morehouse College, and the University of Oxford, where he earned two Master's degrees as a Rhodes Scholar. He lives and works in Washington, DC.

Don't miss this week's special feature on the Caine Prize in The Voice, out Thursday (July 11)

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