Botswana-based author Lauri Kubuitsile’s novel The Scattering has won the prize for best international fiction at the Sharjah International Book Fair, the world’s third largest book fair, in the United Arab Emirates.
According to a press release from the book publisher Penguin Books, The Scattering is a moving and intimate novel that brings to life the genocide of the Herero and Nama people in German South-West Africa in the early 1900s.
“Against the backdrop of southern Africa’s colonial wars at the dawn of the 20th century, the novel traces the fates of two remarkable women whose paths cross after each has suffered the devastation and dislocation of war.”
This is not the first prize in her illustrious writing career spanning almost two decades. Kubuitsile has won the Golden Baobab (2009 and 2010), Orange Botswerere Award for Creative writing, BTA/Anglo Platinum Short Story Award (2007) and Pan African prize for children’s writing. She was also listed for the 2011 Caine Prize.
In a brief interview with this publication, Kubuitsile said that while she is grateful for the prize, raking in awards is not necessarily her bottom line.
“I’m always writing- prizes or no prizes- but prizes are helpful as they tell you you’re on the right track and they are some validation after lots of rejection and hard work,” she said. There aren’t many local writers who have reached the level of international recognition and acclaim that Kubuitsile has in recent years.
She talks down any insinuation that local writers should work harder than their international counterparts to overcome the challenges synonymous with writing. “Batswana writers face the same challenges every writer in the world faces: to sit down, work hard at their craft, and write a book publishers will like and readers will want to read. We, like writers everywhere, live in a connected world so thinking only about problems with local publishing is very outdated,” she said. She disregards the assumption that African writers should engage the African narrative and write their own stories that reflect their own history and lifestyle. “I get angry that people think it’s okay to dictate what African writers must do. I wonder why this constant prescription and bullying is always falling on African writers’ heads. Imagine if people attempted that with European or American writers? No, African writers have no obligation to anyone except themselves, they should write what they want - always. The stories will come out.”
As a writer with more than a decade of writing experience, she advises aspiring writers to invest in their craft. “Talent will only get you so far- writing requires work. The work is reading and writing, nothing else. “Respect the writing and give it what is required. I see so many new writers sending off slapdash rough drafts and waiting for glory. Put all of your energy into the writing, that’s all that matters if indeed you are a writer.”