A broken road in Utopia is arguably the most lyrical and poetic entry in the 2018 Kalemba Short Story Prize.
It’s one thing to lace a story with a touch of poetry, but a whole different ball game to pen an entire tale in lyrical, poetic prose without losing the story-line. 20-year-old Chanda Chongo does just that with his beautiful and heart-rending short-story, A broken road in Utopia, readable here.
Chongo weaves a compelling narrative of a young boy whose life turns upside down after the loss of his love; his mother, followed by his idol; his father. Uprooted from his village and confronted with a new life in the city – streets – he relies on his father’s wisdom to survive.
“We did not know much about school in my village; education was a ghost that journeyed beyond our mango-tree fence. Traditional teachings and superstitions were much more relevant to our daily living,” writes Chongo.
“My mother never knew how to spell sadness, she wasn’t illiterate; she carried in her heart a balm full of happiness. Father taught me how to break a dirge into a verse, a chapter, and finally into a book if he’s shadow lost its way back home because life was an unpredictable game in my village and people sometimes simply disappeared never to return,” he writes.
Chongo has been writing from a very young age and credits his late mother as one of his most significant influence on his writings.
“I’ve got so much love for African literature, and I find it hard to have an all-time favorite author, but Chinua Achebe is one legend whose works I’ve come to admire most, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie too, she’s dynamite,” he says.
On the books that have left an indelible mark “Weep Not Child, Ngugi Wa Thiongo’s stunning book, the kind of writing style portrayed in the book is entirely exceptional.”
On being shortlisted for the Kalemba prize, “KSSP isn’t just about the prize package itself, but an opportunity to rocket Zambia’s literary works on the African space and the world” [Thank-you Chongo, we love your winning attitude and looking forward to working with you in the nearest future].
Chongo has an admirable body of works some of which have appeared in a number of anthologies and other platforms including Spill words magazine, Enclave, Youth Shades, Tuneworth and Lunaris Review.
The Livingstone based writer is also a Journalist at radio Mosi-O-Tunya and Alliance for Community Action. He doubles as a peer educator at Young Men Christian Association and the Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia.