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Each passing day brings us closer to finding out who will win Africa’s richest prize. 173 authors initially submitted their work for a chance to win the 100,000 dollar NLNG Prize for Literature.

Under the review of a panel of judges led by Prof. Dan Izevbaye, 11 authors survived the first round of selection. The longlist has been further pared down to create a shortlist featuring Chika Unigwe, Abubakar Ibrahim, and Elnathan John.

Two of the three shortlisted authors were published by independent nigerian publishers. Parresia, the publisher of of Abubakar Ibrahim’s Season of Crimson Blossom, is based in Lagos. In the last few years, Richard Ali and Azafi Omoluabi-Ogosi  have established the press as a fine establishment in the African literary scene. Their roster includes names like Pius Adesanmi and Helon Habila.

Elnathan’s Born on a Tuesday was published by Cassava Republic, a successful independent press run by Bibi Bakare-Yusuf. The Abuja-based press is one of the leading publisher of literary fiction on the continent.

Even though Unigwe’s Night Dancer was published by Jonathan Cape, a high profile literary fiction publisher based in the UK, the novel’s Nigerian edition was published by Parresia.

Parresia and Cassava Republic are part of a small band of independent publishers putting out literary work by African writers in spite of difficult conditions. Literary publishing is tough business especially in African markets were piracy is a problem and where readers spend their limited resources on non-literary books like textbooks. But thanks to good leadership and wise investments, Parresia and Cassava Republic are thriving. We have come a long way from decades ago when mainstream African novels were all published outside of the continent.

Congrats to the shortlisted authors and their publishers who believed in their work.

The winner of the NLNG Prize for Literature will be announced sometime next month during a press conference.

We wish all three authors the best!

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Ainehi Edoro is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches African literature. She received her doctorate at Duke University. She is the founder and editor of Brittle Paper and series editor of Ohio University Press’s Modern African Writer’s imprint.

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