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Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, African Keniota writer, Italy, 17th May 2015.

Kenyan Author Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o Nominated for 2021 International Booker Prize

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'o has 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.


READ: Outrage as the BBC Refers to Joint Booker Prize Winner Bernardine Evaristo as 'Another Author'

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)

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This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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