Tuesday 2 June 2015

2015 Shortlist: Elnathan John for 'Flying' (Nigeria)

The five writer shortlist for the 2015 Caine Prize for African Writing has been announced by Chair of judges, award-winning South African writer Zoë Wicomb. In a sign of the established calibre to be found in African writing and as the Caine Prize matures in its sixteenth year, the shortlist includes one past winner and two previously shortlisted writers including Nigerian writer Elnathan John for his story ’Flying’ published in Per Contra (2014). Elnathan John was previously shortlisted in 2013 for 'Bayan Layi' also published in Per Contra.

Bio: Elnathan John is a full time writer who lives and works in Nigeria. His writing has been published in Per Contra, ZAM Magazine, Hazlitt, Evergreen Review, and Chimurenga's The Chronic. He writes political satire for a Nigerian newspaper and his blog for which he hopes to someday get arrested and famous. He has tried hard, but has never won anything. His first novel is due from Cassava Republic Press in 2015 and Grove Atlantic’s Black Cat in 2016. He is a 2015 Civitella Ranieri fellow.

What Flying is about: A young school boy growing up in the Kachiro Refuge Home who flies in his sleep.

Read it for: A soft exploration of self discovery, loss and re-incarnation.


I wake up in fright, earlier than I used to. I felt like I was disappearing. My night had no dream. No flying. No running and gliding. No choosing where to fly to. Nothing. Not even crashing. For the first time since I remember dreaming, I did not fly. I am afraid.

The minutes are passing slowly and my hands are trembling. I am sure Aunty Keturah will know what this empty night means. The earliest I can see her is during break and I don’t know if I can hold on for that long.

After cleaning the office, I sit in her soft black chair, with the record book in my laps. On Gideon’s page, I read, "found crying and abandoned in the market." Maybe someone even stepped on him as they went by, I think, feeling sorry for him. Then it comes back to me- my night without flying and I am afraid again. I turn to my name in the book even though I have told myself I wouldn’t look at it yet. I can hear my heart beating and it is hard to breathe.

Tears are gathering in my eyes. I am scared of seeing my story. Not left in a toilet like Biggie, I pray. I trace the words with my forefinger.

Read the rest of ‘Flying