Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o nominated for £50,000 International Booker prize

Ngugi wa Thiongo
UCI distinguished professor of comparative literature Ngugi wa Thiong'o photo: Steve Zylius/UCI

Revered Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o has been nominated for the International Booker prize, a coveted award.

He has been nominated both as an author and translator of the same book making history as the African to be nominated for the award.

Ngugi’s African indigenous languages prowess has for long been lauded and nominated for different awards.

The International Booker prize has a cash award of a £50,000 for both the author and translator which Ngugi has managed to do all by himself for several of his publications.

His novel, ‘The Perfect Nine’ booked him a nomination.

Judges according to the Guardian described the novel as “a magisterial and poetic tale about women’s place in a society of gods”.

The original version of the song was done in his native Gikuyu language and later translated it into English.

Ngugi started writing in his native language in the 1970 after publishing two of his very famous books; A Grain of Wheat and Petals of Blood.

He would then write his first Gikuyu novel ‘Shaitani mutharabaini (Devil on the Cross).

His rich journey in literature and poetry saw him incarcerated for a year without trial. He took time to write more on tissue paper in Gikuyu language.

In an interview with the Guardian in 2006, he said that he was arrested and detained without trial as soon as he published his first Gikuyu novel.

“In prison I began to think in a more systematic way about language. Why was I not detained before, when I wrote in English? It was there that I made my decision. I don’t know if I’d have broken through the psychological block if not forced by history.”

In September 2020, Ngugi was feted by the Catalan government during the Catalonia International Prize.

Thiongo was awarded Premi Internacional Catalunya prize for his push in safeguarding African traditions, culture, and languages.

He later made a moving acceptance speech in his native language saying the news came at a time when he thought his life was over.

He underwent heart surgery in California, US in December last year when the news of the prize was communicated to him.

“Just before they took me to the operating room, I wrote a will. Hence, when I received the news that I had been feted, I felt alive again, like I was being celebrated in the land of the living,” Ngugi recalled in his speech.

“I was so happy that tears were balancing in my eyes,” he added.