Rhodasi Mwale has been announced as the winner of the 2020 Kalemba Short Story Prize for her short story, described as “quirky” by Judges. The USD1000 award is for the best work of original and unpublished short fiction written in English.
Mwale won for If It Ain’t Broke. The story revolves around a protagonist struggling with depression and mental problems.
“Dr Theo assured me, in a stern, noncommittal tone, that the world wasn’t out to get me and that my children weren’t monsters sent to torment me,” she writes. “He scribbled a prescription and shuffled me out of his offices as fast as he could that I felt rejected. Had it come to this? Even a man I paid to listen wasn’t interested anymore. It was time to find a new doctor.”
A Biomedical Scientist and student of infectious diseases at the University of Zambia, Mwale, 31, remembers fondly “curling up on a bean bag in the library, in Grade 3, reading illustrated volumes of the Adventures of Tintin. In Grade 5, I read Eleanor Hoffman’s Mischief in Fez, and it has stayed with me since.”
On winning the prize, “just being shortlisted is everything because it means that I do belong on the African market. There is such a profundity to African literature that I’ve always felt that my voice is a tad too informal, my prose too simplistic for the market.” A native of Kabwe Town, Mwale will be presented with the award at a special ceremony to be held in Lusaka in October.
Her story beat five others to win the prize including, Chowa Chikumbi, A Silent Cry; Vanessa Nakayange, I’ll Keep You Safe; Samuel Zimba, Junta or Divorce; Mukuka Nkunde, Daze and Otensia Kapinga’s After the Storm.