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Each year, Ngugi wa Thiongo’s readers and fans await the announcement of the Nobel Prize for Literature with bated breath— hoping that their beloved literary icon would snag the coveted award.

Even though each passing year indicates that the Nobel Prize committee is moving further and further away from big-name literary figures, his fans remain hopeful.

Come 2017 they will come out in droves rooting for a man they believe is more deserving of the prize than anyone else.

What does Ngugi think of all this?

In a recent interview with Neil Munshi of The Financial Times, Ngugi is reported to have commented on the issue:

A Nobel, he tells me towards the end of our three-hour chat, would be validating but not essential. Six years ago, he shot to the top of betting on the day the result was to be announced, only for one of his daughters to call to tell him that Peru’s Mario Vargas Llosa had won. He recalls the faces of the photographers who had gathered outside his home in anticipation of his victory: “I was the one who was consoling them!”

Read full interview here

The prize is “validating but not essential.” That definitely puts things in perspective. It also recalls Wole Soyinka’s warning against holding up African writers to some kind of inflated significance ascribed to the Nobel Prize. It’s nice to win the Noble Prize. But we have to be careful not to make winning the prize the ultimate measure of a writer’s greatness. Ngugi is an amazingly accomplished writer and has a lasting legacy whether he wins the Nobel Prize or not.

 

 

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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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