Crime doesn’t pay, writing about it can

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Young Mozambicans have responded to Festival Fim do Caminho’s rallying cry for crime fiction with aplomb. Dozens of young writers submitted short stories to the inaugural Festival Fim do Caminho Literary Prize. This year’s theme was Crime in Mozambique.

Featuring tales of gangs in the capital Maputo to echoes of bandits, con artists and corrupt officials, the anthology of shortlisted finalists – planned for publication in early 2017 in Portuguese and English – will bring dozens of unknown lusophone African writers to world readers.

With more than 11,000 crimes registered by the Mozambican police in 2014 alone, it is perhaps no surprise that so many young Mozambicans have shown a taste for crime writing.

Homage to Henning Mankell

The competition’s organisers say they have been inundated with submissions. “We had no idea there were so many crime writers in Mozambique,” says British novelist Lisa St Aubin de Teran, founder of the Mozambique-based NGO Teran Foundation, the charity behind the competition. The competition is funded and supported by the Miles Morland Foundation. The inaugural theme, Crime in Mozambique, was in homage to the Swedish creator of the Wallander novels, Henning Mankell, who lived in Mozambique for more than 10 years and was a director at Maputo’s Teatro Avenida. Mankell passed away in October 2015.

“Henning would have been keen to read the stories”

Yet his legacy and spirit live on in Mozambique. More than 60 crime short stories were submitted in the two months of the competition.  “I know that Henning Mankell would have been delighted and keen to read the stories,” says Anneli Høier of CLA Literary Agency, who was Mankell’s agent. “Henning was one of the greatest storytellers of our time, and every story had a message. And Mozambique was an integral part of his life.”

Each six-page entry narrates from the underbelly of one of the catapult-shaped, Southern African country’s urban centres. Maputo, Beira, Nampula, Chimoio, Xai Xai, Pemba, Tete. In some stories, innovative detectives battle hardened criminals. In others, detectives are nowhere to be seen as crimes unfold.

Dozens of new African voices

Participants ranged from award-winning writers to unpublished authors. The average age of each participant was 26, with new male and female voices as young as 18 submitting their stories.

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The competition stole the attention of aspiring writers on airwaves and social media networks in Mozambique. A senior official from one of the country’s largest prisons even requested that the inmates at his facility be given the opportunity to submit stories.

“Crime fiction is among the top three most popular genres in the world. If we have Nordic Noir and Los Angeles Noir, why not African Noir, or Nairobi or Accra Noir? This massive and magnificent continent of Africa teems with a rich panoply of cultures, all of which can act as intense and absorbing backdrops for stories,”  Kwei Quartey, the Ghanian author of the Inspector Darko Dawson novels, told Festival Fim do Caminho.

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A woman in Maputo reads an ad for The Fim do Caminho Literary Prize in the country’s largest daily, Noticias.

 

Winners announced in June

The inaugural Fim do Caminho Literary Prize officially closed on May 15, 2016. The 57 complete entries have now been handed over to the jury. For transparency reasons, the two-member jury of Mozambican writers will not be named until after the resukts have been announced. Nor will jury members receive the authors’ names – only their pseudonyms and stories. The winners and shortlisted finalists, who will receive cash prizes and classic African novels, will be announced on Festival Fim do Caminho’s website and Facebook Page after June 15, 2016.

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Festival on Indian Ocean in August

Festival Fim do Caminho will host a second literary forum in northern Mozambique in August 2016 as well as a third edition of the film festival. The forum will welcome Mozambican and Brazilian writers for public talks and readings in the northern Mozambican city of Nampula and World Heritage-listed Mozambique Island.

The film festival will feature a tailor-made programme of short films by Interfilm, as well as features and documentaries from and/or about Mozambique.

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