Nigerian poet and novelist Chris Abani has been named a finalist for the 2024 Neustadt International Prize for Literature for his 2010 poetry collection Sanctificum.

Known as “the American Nobel,” the Neustadt International Prize is a biennial award sponsored by the University of Oklahoma and managed by the university’s literary magazine, World Literature Today. Founded in 1969, the Neustadt Prize is one of very few awards for which poets, novelists, screenwriters and playwrights are equally eligible.

The prize, carrying a $50,000 cash award, is awarded to a living writer in recognition of a significant body of work.  Previous winners of the Neustadt Prize include Gabriel García Márquez, Edwidge Danticat, and the 2022 prize winner was Francophone writer Boubacar Boris Diop.

Chris Abani is a Nigerian author who published his first novel at 16. He was imprisoned for his writings and moved to the U.S. after his release. He is best known for his 2005 novel GraceLand and published his poetry collection Smoking the Bible last year.

Sanctificum, Abani’s fifth collection of poetry, utilizes religious ritual, the Nigerian Igbo language, and reggae rhythms to create a post-racial, liturgical love song that covers the globe from Abuja to Los Angeles.

Besides Abani, the finalists for the 2024 Neustadt Prize include American authors Maxine Hong Kingston, Juan Felipe Herrera, and Angie Cruz, Mauritanian author Ananda Devi, German writer Jenny Erpenbeck, Chilean author Nona Fernández, Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli, and Iranian writer Shahrnush Parsipur.

Congrats to Abani on making it to the finals! Fingers crossed.