Dave Medalie - The Mistress's Dog (Caine Prize 5/5)

And here we come to the last story nominated to the Caine Prize this year.

There is a woman and there is a dog. They are both old. They are too old to make anything happen anymore. We learn the dog belonged to the mistress of the woman's husband. But nothing matters anymore. They are both waiting to expire. There is no more husband, no more mistress, no affair, just this old woman and old dog. The woman has never rebelled and she is surely not going to rebel now, it's too late now. She duly takes the dog out three times a day, even though she actually prefers cats.

 

I suppose there is some melancholic appeal to this story and it started off promising but it ended up being underwhelming. I've seen some people praising it because it didn't have anything related to Africa. There was nothing about social injustice, poverty, civil wars, racism, none of that. It could be set anywhere.

 

I fail to see how this makes this story better.

 

I have a friend who has been volunteering in various countries in Africa for the past six years and she tells me that old women and their dogs are not the most pressing issue the continent is facing currently.

 

There is nothing wrong in writing about poverty and social problems, as long as you write it well. And if the story's main advantage is that it is not about one of those subjects we don't want to hear about anymore, then it really doesn't have much going for themselves.

 

Someone complained that there is no Internet, Google, mobile phones and anyl other technology in those stories. This is, of course, true, but I don't think this is anything specific to African stories. I think authors of literary fiction generally avoid featuring technology in their work because it just seems to have a very fleeting quality to it and might prove incomprehensible twenty years from now when we move on from Facebook and Google to some new great thing.