Today's Paper

Man Booker for Achebe

WINNER: Chinua Achebe.

WINNER: Chinua Achebe.   | Photo Credit: FILE PHOTO: AP

Nigerian writer wins the international prize for fiction

LONDON: Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe won the 2007 Man Booker International Prize for fiction on Wednesday, beating nominees including Salman Rushdie, Doris Lessing, Philip Roth, Margaret Atwood and Ian McEwan.

The £60,000 prize is awarded once every two years for a body of fiction.

Achebe, 76, has written more than 20 books including novels, short stories, essays and poetry. But he is best known for his first novel Things Fall Apart (1958), and for another published more than 30 years later, Anthills of the Savannah.

"Chinua Achebe's early work made him the father of modern African literature as an integral part of world literature," said novelist Nadine Gordimer, one of the three judges for the award.

"In Things Fall Apart and his other fiction set in Nigeria, Chinua Achebe inaugurated the modern African novel," said another judge, academic Elaine Showalter. "He also illuminated the path for writers around the world seeking new words and forms for new realities and societies. We honor his literary example and achievements," she said.

The third judge was novelist Colm Toibin.

Focus on Africa

Achebe's work centres on African politics, the way Africa and Africans are depicted in the West and the effects of colonisation on African societies.

In all, 15 writers from Canada, Britain, the United States, Australia, Ireland, France, Israel, Mexico, Nigeria and the Netherlands were short-listed for the 2007 Man Booker International Prize for fiction award.

In addition to Achebe, the contenders included three Canadians Atwood, Michael Ondaatje and short-story writer Alice Munro and two Americans, Roth and Don DeLillo.

Also nominated were three Britons McEwan, Salman Rushdie and Doris Lessing Ireland's John Banville, Australia's Peter Carey, Mexico's Carlos Fuentes, Israel's Amos Oz, France's Michel Tournier and Dutch writer Harry Mulisch.

Launched in 2004 as a spin-off from Britain's prestigious Booker Prize awarded for a single novel by a writer from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth of former British colonies. The international trophy called the Man Booker International Prize, after its sponsor, the financial services conglomerate Man Group is awarded every two years to a living author who has published fiction in English or whose work has been translated into English.

Albanian writer Ismail Kadare won the inaugural prize in 2005.

Achebe will receive the prize on June 28 at a ceremony in Oxford.

Career

The author began work with the Nigerian Broadcasting Company in Lagos in 1954 and also studied broadcasting at the British Broadcasting Corporation in London. During Nigeria's 1967-1970 civil war, Achebe's Ibo people of the eastern region tried to establish an independent Republic of Biafra, and Achebe tried to publicise the plight of his people.

Achebe is currently Professor of languages and literature at Bard College, New York. He has lectured in universities around the world.

In 2004, he refused to accept Nigeria's second highest honour, the Commander of the Federal Republic, to protest the state of affairs in his native country.

Nigeria held a presidential election in April that marked the first time one elected leader handed over power to another in a country plagued by military rule and dictators since gaining independence from Britain in 1960.

Achebe, who was paralysed from the waist down after a 1990 car accident, is married with four children.

Things Fall Apart has sold more than 10 million copies around the world and been translated into 50 languages, making Achebe the most translated African writer of all time.

Many African writers, including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who won the Orange Prize for Fiction last week for Half of a Yellow Sun, have been inspired by his work. AP

Recommended for you