A short story about an evangelical Nigerian church in Texas has claimed this year’s Caine Prize.
Nigerian writer Tope Folarin won the £10,000 award for his story Miracle, which the Chair of the judging panel described as “exquisitely observed and utterly compelling”.
The Caine Prize started in 2000 at the Zimbabwe International Book Fair and is awarded to a published work of short fiction from an African writer.
Miracle tells the story of a theatrical blind pastor who ‘heals’ a boy’s poor eyesight before a congregation of enthusiastic believers who, like so many immigrants before them, have come to America for work, education, health, a civil society and freedom – in other words, for miracles. “We need jobs. We need good grades. We need green cards. We need American passports,” the young protagonist says.
Folarin’s piece exposes the false promises made by faith healers, but it does something more: it asks whether hope delivered to the desperate by means of fabrication and deceit is justified. We may consider the religious to be gullible and the priests exploitative; and, of course, they are – but is it wrong to believe in miracles when only a miracle will suffice to cure suffering? To temporarily suspend rationality in favour of a little good news in the hope of something better?
Many would say it is.
Yet given the right (or perhaps wrong) circumstances, for many it becomes a tempting proposition, something our protagonist comes to understand.
Miracle is an enjoyable read and a refreshing demonstration of crisp and meaningful writing.