Ngugi wa Thiong’o for the Nobel ?


By Nairobian Stringer

Ngugi wa Thiong’o is East Africa’s greatest living writer, and one of Africa’s top five. And since 2010, the man whose books were banned by the government, but one – The River Between – is now part of literature syllabus, has once again been tipped as one of the top five nominees for the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature – if not the presumed winner, already.

The website of the University of California at Irvine where Ngugi teaches English and Comparative Literature is riding on the predictions: “Will the Nobel prize for literature go to Kenya’s Ngugi wa Thiong’o?”

The winner claiming the $1 million (Sh85 million) prize will be announced in two weeks, but British betting outfit, Ladbrokes got the literary world excited after odds on Ngugi tilted when a “Swedish customer” lunged in for large bets on Ngugi – one of the 195 initial nominees submitted to the Nobel Committee.

Sweden is home of the Nobel hence gamblers thinking the “insider” could be in the know. Michael Orthofer, editor of the online Literary Salon speculated on Twitter: “Presumably too much ££ being placed on him…There isn’t a winner yet, but maybe leak that Ngugi a finalist leading to bets on him?”

Funny thing is, the nominees are revealed after 50 years.

So how did the “Swedish customer” guess Kenya’s Ngugi is among the candidates?

And why would the author of Weep Not, Child, Petals of Blood, Devil on the Cross, Dreams in a Time of War, In the House of the Interpreter and the seminal Wizard of the Crow win the greatest literary prize, yet Nigeria’s Chinua Achebe – the most significant African writer of the 20th Century – died a laureate-in-waiting?

The Nobel Literature Prize is awarded annually to “the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding worn in an ideal direction.” Achebe, author of Things Fall Apart the vatic, revelatory work widely considered Africa’s best literary effort of 1958 closed his gate this year. He was 83.

Unlike the American National Critics Book Circle Award, the Nobel Prize is never awarded posthumously. Chinua Achebe is thus done and dusted. Is Ngugi wa Thiong’o more significant than Achebe to win it?

Indeed, since Nigeria’s Wole Soyinka won the Nobel Literature Prize in 1986, no other black African man has.

If Ngugi wa Thiong’o bags the Nobel – in which no reasons are given on selection of winners – he will be the second Kenyan after Prof Wangari Maathi who won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize.


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