Undoubtedly, the year 2021 has been quite particular in world literature, since in a surprising and unexpected way, the eyes of the cultural world have turned to Africa. The continent has never had so many recognitions for its literature in the same year.
What has had the most resonance is the Tanzanian Nobel Prize for Literature Abdulrazak Gurnah, practically a perfect stranger who suddenly had a central place on the front pages of the world. All this considering that Gurnah is the fifth African to be awarded the Nobel, and the first since 2003, when the South African JM Coetzee won it. The others were the Nigerian Wole Soyinka (1986), the South African Nadine Gordimer (1991), and the Egyptian Naguib Mahfuz (1998).
The recognitions for African letters continued. On November 1, it was announced that the Camoes Prize, the most important award for literature in the Portuguese language, it fell to the Mozambican Paulina Chiziane (66). Her work investigates the reality of women in her country, as well as the issues of miscegenation and the fierce civil war that ravaged Mozambique. “Paulina Chiziane’s narrative is born directly from life with captivating vigor,” the jury noted on the occasion.
In addition, the prestigious Goncourt Prize, from France, also went to an African, the Senegalese Mohamed Mbougar Sarr (31), for his novel The most secret memory of men, published this year. Declared an admirer of Roberto Bolaño, at the time of receiving the award he declared: “I would not want people to think that this reward is something exceptional, a favor that is done to an African writer who has obtained it because he is African.”
On the other hand, on November 3, the international Neustadt Prize for Literature, the so-called “Nobel of the United States”, fell into the hands of the Senegalese Boubacar Boris Diop (75), one of the continent’s most renowned and well-known writers in Europe.
Also, that same day it was announced that the South African Damon Galgut (58) won the Booker Prize for his novel The Promise. The novel is set in South Africa during the country’s transition from apartheid to today. It was a kind of rematch, because it was the third time Galgut had been a finalist for the award. The jury rated her latest book as an impressive display of her expertise.
The previous voices gave him as one of the favorites, but he said he was “surprised” to win. Later, he added that he received the award “on behalf of all the stories told and untold, the writers heard and not heard, of the exceptional continent of which I am a part. Please keep listening to us, more are on the way ”.
As if that weren’t enough, the Zimbabwean Tsitsi Dangarembga (62) obtained in Frankfurt, Germany, the Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels prize, awarded by the association of publishers and book sellers that runs the Book Fair in this German city. In its history, the award has recognized names such as Margaret Atwood and Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich. Additionally, Dangarembga was a finalist for the Booker Prize in 2020.
In addition, the list should be added the name of David diop (55). Although he is French, he is of Senegalese origin. He was awarded the 2021 International Booker Prize for his book Soul Brothers (Anagram), translated into English by Anna Moschovakis, with whom she shares the award. The same one for which the Chilean Benjamín Labatut was nominated for A terrible greenery. In his novel, Diop recounts in his novel the story of Alfa Ndiaye, a Senegalese infantryman who fought in the First World War, in a display of European colonialism.
Diop’s book is available in Spanish via Buscalibre. Regarding the rest, there are no major news in the immediate term about a publication in Spanish. In English you will find The Promise, by Damon Galgut, via Amazon. On the same platform is that of Mohamed Mbougar Sarr, but only in French. It is contemplated that the books of Abdulrazak Gurnah On the shore, Paradise and Afterlives begin to be published in our language via Salamandra, although without an estimated date yet.
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2021, the year African literature came out of oblivion: a guide to names and books – La Tercera