Photo via Instagram (@emmaiduma)

Nigerian novelist Ayòbámi Adébáyò’s second novel A Spell of Good Things is on the longlist of this year’s edition of Booker Prize. A truly international prize with cash award of £50,000, the Booker Prize annually rewards a single work of fiction in English published in the UK by a writer of any nationality.  A Spell of Good Things was published earlier this year in the UK by Canongate, the US by A Knopf, and in Nigeria by Ouida Books.

Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ is the only African on this year’s Booker Prize longlist. She joins Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Adichie, Ben Okri, Oyinkan Braithwaite, and Chigozie Obioma as the sixth Nigerian-born novelist to be nominated for the Booker Prize. If she wins, she will be the third after Ben Okri and Chinua Achebe.

A Spell of Good Things follows the lives of Eniola and Wurola—two young characters whose experiences of the world are shaped by the poverty and the affluence of their respective families, but whose lives eventually meet at the threshold of the undiscriminating violence of Nigerian life—the novel expresses Adébáyò’s concern for the redemption of modern Nigeria haunted by political corruption and materialism, with enormous inevitable consequences both for the dispossessed and the privileged. In describing the book as a “breathtaking novel, which shines light on the haves and have-nots of Nigeria, and the shared humanity that lives in between,” the Booker Prize jury evokes what Aamina Ahmad calls “the inescapable truth” of Adébáyò’s writing, in her New York Times review of the novel, which is the power of narratives to show the common precarity of the human condition in a postcolonial nation.

Adébáyò emerged in the African literary scene in 2017 with the publication of her critically acclaimed debut novel Stay with Me. But her stellar career has been long in the making. She participated in the maiden edition of the Farafina Creative Writing Workshop led by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, received a commendation in the 2009 Commonwealth Short Story competition, was selected as a writer in residence by Art Omi in 2012, and was shortlisted for the Kwani? Manuscript Project in 2013.

True to the foresight of these literary patrons who identified Adébáyò’s promise quite early, Stay with Me was published to global acclaim, and has since been translated into twenty languages, with the French translation being awarded the Prix Les Afriques. The novel also won the 9mbolie Prize for Literature, was shortlisted for the Baileys Prize for Women’s Fiction, and Longlisted for the International Dylan Thomas Prize and the International Dublin Literary Award. Describing the book as “a thoroughly contemporary—and deeply moving—portrait of a marriage” in a Yoruba community steeped in traditional culture, Michiko Kakutani placed the novel in the canon of great African literature, alongside Chinua Achebe and Adichie’s writings.

Adébáyò, who is delighted by the news of her longlisting, shared a brief note of excitement on Instagram: “A Spell of Good Things has been longlisted for the Booker Prize!!! Thrilled to be in stellar company.”

Since the announcement yesterday, there has been an outpouring of support from the African literary community. Ayobami’s husband and fellow author Emmanuel Iduma celebrated her in a heartfelt message shared on Instagram:

My heart bursts with joy: @ayobamidebayo has been longlisted for the Booker Prize! A Spell of Good Things is deserving of this special honor, and I speak from the vantage of observing the work unfold. All those years of multiple drafts! The sure, expansive work. I celebrate the resilience of her vision; this is a novel closest to the magnanimity of her compassion for Nigeria.

Ellah Wakatama, the Editor-at-Large at Canongate Books, who published the UK edition of A Spell of Good Things, also shared on Instagram: “Today is a VERY Good Day. Congratulations 🔥❤️@ayobamidebayo ❤️🔥 longlisted for the 2023 Booker Prize. I am happy!”

Adébáyò’s Nigerian publisher Lola Shoneyin writes in a note sent to us: “Ayọ̀bámi is a brilliant writer and we are delighted to be her publishers.”

The other titles on the Booker list are Tan Twan Eng’s The House of Doors, Paul Murray’s The Bee Sting, Chetna Maroo’s Western Lane, Martin Maclnness’ In Ascension, Paul Lynch’s Prophet’s Song, Viktoria Llyod-Barlow’s All the Little Bird-Hearts, Seᾶn Hughes’s Pearl, Paul Harding’s This Other Eden, Elaine Feeney’s How to Build a Boat, Jonathan Escoffery’s If I Survive You, Sarah Bernstein’s Study for Obedience, and Sabastain Barry’s Old God’s Time. Chair of the judges, Esi Edugyan, remarked that this “list is defined by its freshness—by the irreverence of new voices, by the iconoclasm of established one.”

A shortlist of six books will be announced in September.

Being on the Booker Prize longlist means significant attention from a truly global community of readers, critics, and publishers. Congrats to Adébáyò! We hope she makes it to the shortlist.