Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o has become the first writer to be nominated for the prestigious International Booker Prize as both author and translator. He is also the first nominee to write in an indigenous African language.
Veteran Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’ohas recently been nominated for the prestigious 2021 International Booker Prize for his novel The Perfect Nine. His nomination is a historic one in several notable ways. Firstly, he is the first writer to ever be nominated in the categories of both author and translator. Additionally, he is the first nominee ever to have written a work in an indigenous African language—Gikuyu, the native language of millions of Kenyans in the central parts of the country.
Wa Thiong’o’s novel, which was published in October of last year, has been described by this year’s judging panel as “a magisterial and poetic tale about women’s place in a society of gods,” according to The Guardian. The novel is a mythical and allegorical tale of the Gĩkũyũ founders who are seeking to find suitors for their beautiful daughters.
Wa Thiong’o’s nomination for this year’s International Booker Prize is well-deserved. The Kenyan author’s numerous and remarkable works, which include A Grain of Wheat, Devil on the Cross, Birth of a Dream Weaver and more, have been continuously snubbed over the years for arguably the ultimate honour and recognition—the Nobel Literature Prize.
This year, wa Thiong’o is nominated alongside 12 other authors whose works span 11 languages and who hail from 12 countries across the world. Previous winners of the prize include British-Nigerian author, Bernadine Evaristo, who became the first Black woman ever to be awarded the prize for her novel Girl, Woman, Other.
The full Booker Prize longlist for this year is as follows:
I Live in the Slums by Can Xue, translated from Chinese by Karen Gernant and Chen Zeping (Yale University Press)
At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop, translated from French by Anna Moschovakis (Pushkin Press)
The Pear Field by Nana Ekvtimishvili, translated from Georgian by Elizabeth Heighway (Peirene Press)
The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enríquez, translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell (Granta Books)
When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamín Labatut, translated from Spanish by Adrian Nathan West (Pushkin Press)
The Perfect Nine: The Epic of Gikuyu and Mumbi by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, translated from Gikuyu by the author (Harvill Secker)
The Employees by Olga Ravn, translated from Danish by Martin Aitken (Lolli Editions)
Summer Brother by Jaap Robben, translated from Dutch by David Doherty (World Editions)
An Inventory of Losses by Judith Schalansky, translated from German by Jackie Smith (Quercus)
Minor Detail by Adania Shibli, translated from Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova, translated from Russian by Sasha Dugdale (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
Wretchedness by Andrzej Tichý, translated from Swedish by Nichola Smalley (And Other Stories)
The War of the Poor by Éric Vuillard, translated from French by Mark Polizzotti (Pan Macmillan)