Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Nigerian Tope Folarin wins Caine Prize for tale of deceit in Texas church

By Charlotte Lytton, for CNN
updated 12:11 PM EDT, Tue July 9, 2013
Nigeria's Tope Folarin, winner of the 2013 Caine Prize.
Nigeria's Tope Folarin, winner of the 2013 Caine Prize.
  • Tope Folarin wins top prize for African Writing
  • His short story, "Miracle," is a semi-autobiographical look at the Nigerian diaspora
  • The prize includes $15,000 and a position as Writer-in-Residence

(CNN) -- Nigerian writer Tope Folarin has been announced as the winner of this year's Caine Prize for African Writing. The U.S.-based author scooped the accolade -- which has been described as Africa's leading literary award -- for his short story "Miracle," a tale of faith and deceit in an evangelical Nigerian church in Texas.

"Winning feels tremendous -- I still can't believe it," enthused the 31-year-old author. "I feel like I'm walking on air."

Folarin spent a year writing the story, which explores the relationship between a blind pastor-prophet and his faithful congregation. "It's a community I know quite well," he explained. "'Miracle' does have an autobiographical quality to it, because the dreams and desires described are ones I share as a writer in the Nigerian diaspora."

Watch this: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie cries over praise

Turning Nigeria's civil war into fiction
'Fearless' writer cries over praise

The Washington D.C.-based author, who was born and raised in the U.S. but lived in Nigeria for a year, said that fellow members of the community had responded well to his story. But striking the right tone had its challenges. "I spent a long time trying to get a particular voice down, and that was the greatest technical difficulty I had when writing the novel," Folarin said.

"Watching Woody Allen's 'The Purple Rose of Cairo' -- where a movie star walks off screen and into real life -- helped me to define that voice, and introduce the narrator's transition from using 'we' to 'I'."

Teen wins 'Nobel Prize for Children'

Gus Chaseley-Hayford, chair of judges for the prize, described Folarin's winning prose as a "superb Caine Prize winner -- a delightful and beautifully paced narrative, that is exquisitely observed and utterly compelling."

The decision was announced at the 14th Caine Prize ceremony, held Monday night at Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford, where Folarin beat his four fellow shortlisted candidates. Three of the other contenders were Nigerian, as was last year's prize winner, Rotimi Babatunde.

"I know that myself and other Nigerian writers have been empowered by a long tradition of Nigerian authors writing beautifully," said Folarin. "At times when we're struggling to write, we derive great power from the work that has come before us."

I know that myself and other Nigerian writers have been empowered by a long tradition of Nigerian authors writing beautifully
Tope Folarin

Folarin has previously received literary fellowships from The Institute for Policy Studies and the journal "Callalloo," as well as studying for two Master's degrees at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. His Caine Prize win means he is eligible to take up a month's tenure as Writer-in-Residence at the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice at Georgetown University, which he plans to begin before the end of the year.

Describing himself as a "savings freak," Folarin has no grand plans for his £10,000 ($14,840) prize fund as yet, but his future literary plans are more defined. "'Miracle' is part of a manuscript I've been working on for three years, which ties together a number of novels through a single lead protagonist," he divulged.

"I hope to get that published at some stage in the future, but my main focus right now is just being the best writer I can be.

"Nothing else matters to me."

Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:39 AM EST, Wed January 22, 2014
A Cameroon supporter smiles during celebrations after Cameroon qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil after winning the second leg qualifying football match between Cameroon and Tunisia on November 17, 2013 in Yaounde.
Known for its diverse geography and culture, Cameroon could be on the dawn of becoming known for tourism.
updated 12:37 AM EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
Vintage helicopters, ziplines, private flying safaris offer new, spectacular views of wildlife and rugged terrain.
updated 6:20 AM EDT, Fri March 21, 2014
Morocco is famous for its historic cities and rugged landscape. But it's becoming known as a surfer's paradise.
updated 10:15 AM EDT, Fri March 14, 2014
A huge spiral in the Sahara had Google Earth users baffled by what it could be. So what exactly is it?
updated 5:27 AM EST, Thu March 6, 2014
A photographer took to an ultra-light aircraft to capture Botswana's savannah from above. The results are amazing.
updated 5:34 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
The Hadza are one of the oldest people on Earth. Today, they battle for land, and continued survival.
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
No one knows what causes "fairy circles" in Namibia's desert. A new study, however, may have solved the mystery.
updated 6:59 AM EST, Thu February 13, 2014
South African photographer Frank Marshall captured Botswana's heavy metal rockers as part of his Renegades series.
You might not associate Botswana with rock music, but in recent years its heavy metal scene has been making a name for itself.
updated 6:17 AM EST, Wed January 29, 2014
The ruined town of Great Zimbabwe is part of a kingdom that flourished almost 1,000 years ago, and a bridge to the past.
updated 6:30 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
Vintage clothes are proving a hit with fashionistas across Africa, as retro goes back to the future.
updated 5:11 AM EST, Thu January 16, 2014
Tour d'Afrique
The Tour d'Afrique is a four-month, 12,000 km cycle race across the length of Africa.
Each week Inside Africa highlights the true diversity of the continent as seen through the mediums of art, music, travel and literature.