It’s been fantastic year for African literature! Shortly after Abdulrazak Gurnah was awarded the Nobel Prize, the Senegalese novelist Boubacar Boris Diop has been announced winner of the 2022 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, referred to as the “American Nobel”, for his novel Murambi: The Book of Bones. The novel is a “multi-voiced” account of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, written in Diop’s signature quaint style. He is the second African to win the prize, following Mozambican writer Mia Couto in 2014.
First awarded in 1970, the Neustadt Prize is sponsored by the University of Oklahoma and its international publication World Literature Today and is biennially conferred on a single writer of any nationality. At $50,000, it is one of the most prestigious literary prizes in the world. It is also largely regarded as a “lead up” to the Nobel, with many of its winners going on to win the latter.
Boubacar was announced winner via Zoom as part of the 2021 Neustadt Lit Fest. The finalist of ten authors included the Ghanaian-American Kwame Dawes. Boubacar’s winning novel recounts the story of Rwandan history teacher Cornelius Uvimana who returns to his home country in the aftermath of the war and tries to write a play about it. It was translated into English from French by Fiona Mc Laughlin, with an afterword by Diop.
The Neustadt Prize does not accept applications. Finalists are nominated by a special body. Boubacar was reportedly nominated by writer and translator Jennifer Croft who was awarded the Booker Prize for her work in translating the novel Flights by Nobel Laureate Olga Tokarczuk.
In addition to the cash prize, Diop will receive a silver replica of an eagle feather and a certificate.
Congratulations to Boubacar Boris Diop!