Will Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o Finally Be Awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature?

By Amanda Hawker

Rumour has it that Kenyan author, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o is once more in the running to be awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature. The same rumours did the rounds last year and in 2010, but apparently this year, the legendary author’s chances seem even stronger than in the past.

But it’s going to be a close finish. Ngũgĩ is said to be up against Japanese author Haruki Murakami (the odds-on favourite) and Algerian-born novelist, Assia Djebar.  So far, only four African authors have won the Nobel Prize in Literature, the highest award for any author. They are: Wole Soyinka (1986), Naguib Mahfouz (1988), Nadine Gordimer (1991) and JM Coetzee (2003).
The 18 member Swedish Academy is responsible for the selection of the Nobel Laureates in Literature. The candidates eligible for the Literature Prize are nominated by people who have received an invitation from the Nobel Committee to submit names for consideration.

Born in Kamiriithu, near Limuru in Kenya, he lived through the Mau War of Independence. The Mau Mau War was the most important historical event in the making of modern Kenya and, inevitably became a major theme in his early works. Ngũgĩ studied for a B.A. in English at Makerere University College in Kampala, Uganda. His first novel, Weep Not, Child was published in 1964 while he was still a student. Weep Not, Child was the first novel in the English language to be published by a writer from East Africa. His second novel, The River Between, was published a year later and is currently part of Kenya’s national high school syllabus. Later in his career, he began writing in his mother tongue, Gikuyu and also in Swahili.

Ngũgĩ’s books have been translated into more than thirty languages and they continue to be the subject of books, critical discussions and academic arguments. He is recipient of many honours including the 2001 Nonino International Prize for Literature and seven honorary doctorates.

The winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature will be announced in October. I’ll be keeping fingers crossed that this year is Africa’s year. 

Sources:  The Guardian Bookslive Ngugi wa Thiongo
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