Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 3,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

Photo source: Google.

Angola’s Jose Eduardo Agualusa has won the 2017 International Dublin Literary Award for his novel A General Theory of Oblivion, making him the second African to do so and the first writer generally whose work had been translated from Portuguese.

Formerly the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the annual prize is in its twenty-second year and, at €100,000, is the richest for a single book of fiction published in English. Sponsored by Dublin City Council, it is managed by Dublin City Libraries, in line with Dublin’s 2010 designation as a UNESCO City of Literature. For each prize, libraries in major cities worldwide make nominations.

Agualusa’s A General Theory of Oblivion, published in 2012 and translated in 2016, had earlier been shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker International Prize. His twentieth book and ninth novel in a career of 24 books so far, it is his fourth novel to be translated into English, all of them by the British translator Daniel Hahn. Here is a description of the novel on Amazon.

Photo credit: Pulse.ng.

As the country goes through various political upheavals from colony to socialist republic to civil war to peace and capitalism, the world outside seeps into Ludo’s life through snippets on the radio, voices from next door, glimpses of someone peeing on a balcony, or a man fleeing his pursuers.

A General Theory of Oblivion is a perfectly crafted, wild patchwork of a novel, playing on a love of storytelling and fable.

€100,000 is a life-changing sum and Agualusa, according to The Guardian, plans to use it to “fulfil a dream of building a public library” in his adopted home, Mozambique.

“What we really need is a public library, because people don’t have access to books, so if I can do something to help that, it will be great,” Agualusa says. “We have already found a place and I can put my own personal library in there and open it to the people of the island. It’s been a dream for a long time.”

As the book’s translator, Daniel Hahn will take €25,000. But due to his friendship with Agualusa, the latter, in a beautiful act of philanthropy, will further donate €2,000 to the Translators Association First Translation Prize.

The International Dublin Award has quite a history with writers from Africa. Alongside Agualusa on the ten-writer 2017 shortlist were Nigeria’s Chinelo Okparanta for Under the Udala Trees and his close friend Mozambique’s Mia Couto for Confession of the Lioness. They had been chosen from a longlist of 147 books, which included Nigeria’s Chigozie Obioma for The Fishermen and Algeria’s Kamel Daoud for The Meursault Investigation.

The first African winner of the award is Morocco’s Tahar Ben Jelloun in 2004, for his novel This Blinding Absence of Light. In 2005, South Africa’s Diane Awerbuck made the shortlist for her novel Gardening at Night. In 2006, there were two Africans: Nigeria’s Chris Abani for GraceLand and Algeria’s Yasmina Khadra for The Swallows of Kabul. In 2007, J.M. Coetzee, then of South Africa, was chosen for Slow Man. In 2008, Yasmine Khadra made a return with The Attack. In 2012, it was the Sierra Leonean-Scottish Aminatta Forna for The Memory of Love. In 2015, the longlist had Chimamanda Adichie for Americanah, Aminatta Forna for The Hired Man, Zimbabwe’s NoViolet Bulawayo for We Need New Names, and Morocco’s Mahi Binebine for Horses of God, with Adichie and Binebine reaching the shortlist. In 2016, the shortlist had Rwanda’s Scholastique Mukasonga for Our Lady of the Nile.

By being the first book translated from Portuguese to win, A General Theory of Oblivion makes a powerful case for Lusophone literature in a sphere dominated by Anglophone and Francophone writing.

In 2007, Agualusa became the first African to win the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for his The Book of Chameleons.

Congratulations to Jose Eduardo Agualusa!

 

Correction: The first version of this post incorrectly stated that Agualusa is the first African to win the International Dublin Literary Award. Agualusa is the second, behind Tahar Ben Jelloun. We apologize for that error.

Tags: , , , ,

About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young was born in Aba, Nigeria and attended the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. A finalist for the 2016 Miles Morland Writing Scholarship, his short stories include: “A Tenderer Blessing,” which appears in Transition Magazine and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2015; “Mulumba,” which appears in The Threepenny Review; and “You Sing of a Longing,” which was shortlisted for the inaugural Gerald Kraak Award and appears in Pride and Prejudice, an anthology by The Jacana Literary Foundation and The Other Foundation. His essays appear in Interdisciplinary Academic Essays and in Brittle Paper where he is Deputy Editor. His interviews appear in Africa in Dialogue, Bakwa Magazine, SPRINNG, and Dwartonline. He is the editor of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of themed e-anthologies of writing and visual art exploring different aspects of Nigerianness. The first, Enter Naija: The Book of Places (October 2016), focuses on Nigerian cities. The second, Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (June 2017), focuses on professions in Nigeria. A postgraduate student of African Studies, he currently teaches English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu, Nigeria. When bored, he blogs pop culture at naijakulture.blogspot.com or just Googles Rihanna.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

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.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."

Archives

A Kenyan Tank Engine Joins The Hit Children’s TV Show Thomas & Friends

nintchdbpict000360191926

Thomas the Tank Engine is the fictional character in Reverent Wilbert Awdry’s The Railway Series about steam locomotives. Thomas who […]

The Fall of the Gods | Chapter 6: Ise | by Anthony Azekwoh | #TFOG

anthony-Azekwoh-fall-of-the-gods-1-e1502690904876

Ebe onye dara ka chi ya kwaturu ya. Where one falls is where his god pushed him down. *** Emeka […]

Our Favorite Sci-Fi Filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu Publishes a Children’s Book

wanuri kahiu wooden camel 2

For those of you who are desperately and constantly in search of African children’s books, Wanuri Kahiu’s recent collaboration with […]

Akwaeke Emezi and Uzodinma Had a Moment

Screen Shot 2017-10-06 at 5.14.25 PM

Akwaeke Emezi is, in more ways than one, the writer we all want to be. Her debut novel is still […]

An Ode to Depression | Victor Enite Abu

14395331431_1727aab52d_o

Some mornings, getting out of bed feels like carrying ten bags of cement. Other mornings, you float through space, watching […]

The Brittle Paper Award for Essays/Think Pieces: Meet the Nominees

billy kahora

To mark our seventh anniversary on August 1, 2017, we announced the inaugural Brittle Paper Literary Awards, to recognize the finest, original pieces of […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.