Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o has become the first writer to be nominated for the prestigious International Booker Prize as both author and translator. He is also the first nominee to write in an indigenous African language.
The 83-year-old Kenyan and perennial Nobel favorite is among 13 authors nominated for the award for best-translated fiction, a £50,000 prize split evenly between author and translator. Thiong’o is nominated as writer and translator of The Perfect Nine, a novel-in-verse described by the judges as “a magisterial and poetic tale about women’s place in a society of gods”, and written in the Bantu language Gikuyu.
This year’s International Booker longlist spans 11 languages and 12 countries, and many of its works also cross genres.
The chair of the judges, historian Lucy Hughes-Hallett, said that another theme emerged from the 125 books submitted for the prize this year: “migration, the pain of it, but also the fruitful interconnectedness of the modern world”.
Wa Thiong’o’s novel, which was published in October of last year, has been described by this year’s judging panel as “a magisterial and poetic tale about women’s place in a society of gods,” according to The Guardian. The novel is a mythical and allegorical tale of the Gĩkũyũ founders who are seeking to find suitors for their beautiful daughters.