Is Ngugi wa Thiong’o Africa’s next Nobel Laureate?

While the Swedish Academy is only set to announce the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature on Thursday, October 7th, the buzz about the award is already spreading like wildfire across the literary world and Ngugi wa Thiong’o, author of Farafina title Wizard of the Crow is caught up in the mix.  Nobel speculations are quite normal but the amazing jump from the odds of 75/1 to 6/1 on the UK betting site Ladbrokes, have raised the eyebrows of many across the literary circle who now believe that perhaps the name of the winner has somehow been leaked from the Swedish Academy (which is also quite usual) and many are betting on this new information.  Of course there’s also a chance that this is some sort of domino effect as a result of the increased speculation.

Either way, we at Farafina Books are very proud to count the legendary Ngugi wa Thiong’o as one of our own, so it should be no surprise that we have our money on him cinching the prize!

M.A Orthofer of the Complete Review (the Literary Saloon) has listed some of the reasons why he believes Ngugi WILL indeed be named the 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature laureate.  He says, consider that:

  • The odds have it: Ngũgĩ started out at 75/1 and has rapidly risen up the list: down to 25/1, then 15, and, at the close of 3 October, 6/1. Sure, he’s still ranked behind 4/1 ‘favorite’ Tomas Tranströmer — but the Swedish poet only inched up from a 5/1 start. Very few other authors can boast of improved odds: Murakami Haruki is up a decent bit, from 11/1/to 7/1, and Mario Vargas Llosa went from 45/1 to 25/1 — but it’s Ngũgĩ that is the really big mover (yes, Néstor Amarilla has gone from 100/1 to 25/1, but I feel confident that that is entirely irrational speculation), which suggests someone in the know decided to cash in (which is what has happened in previous years).
  • Ngũgĩ’s Marxist-Leninist background is right up what is perceived as the Swedish Academy’s alley. (It’s all much more complicated than that, but it’s true that his politics are probably something that finds general Swedish approval — more so than Chinua Achebe or Nuruddin Farah (or someone I figure deserves more attention, Ayi Kwei Armah).)
  • Has the first-rate anti-colonial bona fides — and that’s always a great selling point.
  • Ngũgĩ has written major works in each of the past four decades; compare for example Achebe, whose (writing) career peaked very early.
  • Ngũgĩ writes in Gikuyu ! He also writes in English, but still would be the first author writing in what would truly be considered an originally African language (leaving aside debates about Mahfouz’s Arabic …). And his support for writing in non-colonial languages also goes over really well.
  • Has a bit of a Scandinavian connection — he spent extended periods in Sweden previously, so awareness of/familiarity with him there is greater than for many other authors. (As it happens, he was also just at the Göteborg Book Fair, but that’s not what I mean.)
  • He’s a very good writer, with several major novels under his belt — not least of which is the recent Wizard of the Crow –, as well as being a major and very active voice in the African cultural debates. And, beside the fiction and non-fiction, he’s written several plays, too. (Admittedly, he doesn’t have Achebe’s poetic touch …..)
  • There hasn’t been an African winner in a while, and of the generation of writers that came of age as colonialism came to an end in their countries — whose members include Soyinka, Achebe, and Armah, among others — he is certainly one of the most significant.
  • He’d be a worthy winner.
  • Read more of his analysis here.

    Writers from L-R: Ondjaki, Ben Okri, Ngugi wa Thiong'o

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