FOR years, the Booker Prize for Fiction has been widely criticised as favouring mostly American novelists, as it sometime ran for two consecutive two-year period without any African writer finding his way to the shortlist.
This assumption was however proved wrong by a shortlist recently released for the 2019 prize which has Nigeria’s Chigozie Obioma as one of the lucky few who found their way to the highly competitive list, for his book ‘An Orchestra of Minorities’. This made it the second time the 33-year old Nigerian Novelist is making it to the list, having been shortlisted for the Prize in 2015 for his debut novel The Fishermen.
The Booker Prize which was first awarded in 1969 was hitherto not open to writers of all nationality, but exclusively to citizen of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Republic of Ireland, or Zimbabwe, until 18th September 2013 when it was announced that the awards would consider authors from anywhere in the world, so long as their work was in English and published in the UK. And after that edition, the prize which is awarded every two years was then opened in 2015, when Obioma’s first entry was hooked to the shortlist.
It is worthy to mention that while his first novel was a powerful allegory of brotherhood, vengeance and fate, his current one is a heart-wrenching epic about destiny and determination in the mythic style of the Igbo literary tradition.
This year’s competition however seems to be a tougher one, as even previous prize winners of the prize, such as: Canadian author Margaret (2000 winner) Atwood, and British-Indian novelist cum essayist Salman Rushdie (1981 winner) also plied safe to the shortlist. Last year’s prize went to Belfast-born author Anna Burns for her coming-of-age story ‘Milkman’.
All ears are now fixed to October 14th when the winner for 2019 award will be announced.
Chigozie Obioma was born in Akure, Nigeria, but currently lives in the United States where he is an assistant professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Although his debut novel, The Fishermen, did not win the Booker Prize it won: the inaugural FT/Oppenheimer Award for Fiction, the NAACP Image Awards for Debut Literary Work, and the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction (Los Angeles Times Book Prizes).
That same year, Obioma was named one of Foreign Policy’s 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2015.