Veteran Kenyan Writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o has Been Snubbed Again for this Year's Nobel Literature Prize
The 2018 and 2019 prizes have been awarded to Polish author Olga Tokarczuk and Austrian author Peter Handke respectively.
Veteran Kenyan writer, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, was pegged to win this year's Nobel Prize in Literature. Following a sexual harassment scandal that rocked the prestigious Swedish academy last year, the 2018 winner was not announced and hence the need to announce two winners today. In a recent announcement, Polish author and winner of the 2018 Man Booker International prize, Olga Tokarczuk, and Austrian author Peter Handke, were awarded the 2018 and 2019 prizes respectively. While there were several contenders for the prizes including Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, Canadian poets Anne Carson and Margaret Atwood, Gaudeloupean novelist Maryse Condé and French writer, Annie Ernaux, many had hoped that Thiong'o would walk away as one of the winners. This is after a commitment was made by the Swedish academy to increase diversity and move away from a "Eurocentric perspective of literature".
Over the years, there have been calls by many to acknowledge Thiongo's incredible contribution to literature by awarding him the Nobel Prize in Literature. Only five Africans have ever been awarded the prize with the legendary Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka having been the first Black African to take home the award back in 1986. After the passing of fellow Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe in 2013, there have also been calls for him to be awarded the prize posthumously.
Before the announcement, Thiong'o's son took to social media to speak about how he was certain his father would finally be named this year's winner:
I am so confident that my father will win The Nobel Prize in Literature this year that the only question I have is… https://t.co/Wn56hv9B8a— Mukoma Wa Ngugi (@Mukoma Wa Ngugi) 1570540898.0
The panel have explained their decision saying that Tokarczuk was awarded the prize for "a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life." Admittedly, the awarding of the prize to Tokarczuk has been a progressive move by the Swedish academy considering that there have only been 14 women to win the prize before her compared to 113 men.
With regards to Handke, the panel said that he has been awarded the prize for "an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience."