Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s latest novel The Perfect Nine: The Epic of Gikuyu and Mumbi, and French author of Senegalese descent David Diop’s debut novel At Night All Blood is Black are among the 13-named authors on the 2021 International Booker Prize longlist.
The International Booker Prize, introduced in 2004 to complement the then Man Booker Prize, is open to a single book translated into English from a foreign language and published in the United Kingdom or Ireland. It confers a cash award of £50,000 for the winning title, shared equally between author and translator.
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s The Perfect Nine: The Epic of Gikuyu and Mumbi was originally published in Gikuyu as Kenda Muiyuru: Rugano Rwa Gikuyu na Mumbi and translated into English by Ngugi himself, making him the first author in the history of the International Booker Prize to earn a nomination for writing and translating the same work. The novel, described as an “exhilarating feminist tale”, re-imagines the epic of the Gikuyu origin story in which “99 suitors seek the hands of the nine warrior daughters who will ultimately decide which suitors are worthy of partnership.”
Diop’s At Night All Blood is Black centers two Senegalese soldiers fighting on the side of the French in WW1. It was originally published in French as Frère d’âme in 2018 and translated into English by Anna Moschovakis in 2020. In won the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens, in addition to being on the shortlist of 10 major prizes in France.
Both novels were included in Brittle Paper’s 2020 list of notable reads.
Previous nominees of African descent include Alain Mabanckou in 2017 (longlist) for Black Moses , DRC’s Fiston Mwanza Mujila’s Tram 83 (longlist) and Angola’s Jose Eduardo Agualusa’s A General Theory of Oblivion (shortlist) in 2016.
Previous African judges include Chika Unigwe and Elnathan John.
A shortlist will be announced on April 22, and the winners on June 2.
See the full longlist here.
Congrats to Ngugi and Diop.