windham-campbel-cole-vladislavic-habila

The third edition of The Windham Campbell Prize is here! The list of nine winners were announced a few hours ago. And guess what.

It’s an African affair! All three slots dedicated to fiction were won by African novelists—Teju Cole, Helon Habila, and Ivan Vladislavic.

Each author is recognized for “a body of work or extraordinary promise” and goes home with a 150,000 dollar check.

The Windham Campbell Prize was established by Donald Windham and Sandy M. Campbell to recognize both fiction and non-fiction writers.  Since the first edition in 2013, the objective has been to “call attention to literary achievement and provide writers with the opportunity to focus on their work independent of financial concerns.”

We are so giddy with delight but also so very proud of our three African winners.

That all three winners of such a prestigious prize are Africans tells us that we’re not exaggerating when we say that African fiction is really shaping global currents of ideas about the world and about storytelling.

Here’s my take on all three novelists.

Teju Cole is the Nigerian-American author of Open City and Every Day Is for the ThiefSome of you may not have read his work but know him as an influential Twitter personality. He uses his novels, essays, and social-media commentaries to help us think about different aspects of life in our contemporary world.

Ivan Vladislavic is a South African novelist with very fascinating ideas about history, violence, and post-apartheid life. I remember reading his 2010 novel, Double Negative, and being blown away at his idea that a history of violence—things we think are done, dead, and buried—doesn’t just go away but continues to haunt our everyday life.

Helon Habila‘s first novel, Waiting for An Angel, helped kickstart the current Nigerian literary renaissance. In 2002, Habila used the breath of fresh air of post-military-rule Nigeria to write one of the most beautifully melancholic novels of the past couple of decades. Waiting for An Angel led to a rekindling of interest in Nigerian literature as a global phenomenon and opened the way for the likes of Chimamanda Adichie and Chris Abani.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

3 Responses to “Big Win for African Fiction! | $150, 000 Windham Campbell Prize Goes to Teju Cole, Helon Habila, & Vladislavic” Subscribe

  1. Fred Khumalo 2015/02/24 at 14:24 #

    Well done, gentlemen. Ivan has always been an inspiration to those of us from the southern tip of the continent. I have also followed Habila’s career from as early as when he published Waiting for An Angel. Cole is, of course, a household name in pop culture circles. We’re proud of you, guys.

  2. JM Schreiber 2015/02/24 at 17:11 #

    Reading from afar but with a strong interest in reading African based or related authors, this is a wonderful reminder that there is a rich literary treasure to discover from this continent. I am well acquainted with Vladislavic and Cole but will be seeking out Habila now as well. Well deserved congratulations to all!

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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