22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Tope Folarin

Portrait Tope Folarin
© Hartwig Klappert

Tope Folarin was born in Ogden, Utah as the son of Nigerian immigrants and he grew up in Grand Prairie, Texas. He studied political science in Atlanta and then received his Master’s as a Rhodes Scholar from the University of Oxford.

Following that he worked as a press speaker and was involved in Obama’s election campaign before he became acquainted with authors and poets like E. Ethelbert Miller in 2008, who motivated him to submit his short prose to competitions. In 2013 he was the first American-born writer to receive the Caine Prize for African Writing. With this award, Folarin sees himself in a long tradition of African authors, despite the fact that he writes in the diaspora. It is also, he added, confirmation of his two identities, and brings together both his Nigerian and his American roots. The award-winning short story »Miracle« is also an excerpt from his soon-to-be-released novel »The Proximity of Distance«, which is composed like a mosaic out of eleven interrelated tales. The jurors praised in particular its well-balanced narrative pace as well as the precise observations with which Folarin describes the church services of the Christian revival movement attended by the Nigerian immigrants. What stands out is the clever shift in the narrative perspective from the collective we of the congregation to the individual perception of a boy who remains nameless. While a visiting preacher, who claims to be blind, sells himself as messenger from God with healing powers, the asthmatic and short-sighted narrator becomes aware of his own definition of wonders. Instead of supernatural phenomena or mystic incantations, he finds these above all in family togetherness, in surmounting everyday burdens in an existence marked by harsh cultural contrast and learns to appreciate the usual as humanist and cultural achievements. And so it is not the alleged prophet who helps him to see, but his spectacles. However, Folarin ultimately leaves it up to the reader to judge the sincerity of the preacher and his possibly manipulative work.

Folarin is a member of the board of the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation which prompted Afro-American authors. The »Africa39«, which was initiated in April 2014 under the auspices of the Hay Festival and realised with the help of Binyavanga Wainaina named Folarin one of the most promising and most influential young authors from sub-Saharan Africa and the diaspora. Folarin lives in Washington, D.C.

Miracle Auszug aus: The Proximity of Distance In: The Caine Prize for African Writing 2013 New Internationalist Publications/Jacana Media Oxford/Aukland Park, 2013