Multi-award-winning novelist, playwright, and filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga is among 13 writers on a US-dominated list of contenders for the prestigious Booker Prize for Fiction.
Well-travelled Dangarembga was named among competitors for the 50 000-pound (US$63 000) literary prize on Tuesday for her This Mournable Body novel which was published two years ago.
Dangarembga, a highly versatile and well-lauded artist has directed and written multiple films. She is the founder of both the Women’s Film Festival of Harare and the International Images Film Festival.
Her first novel, Nervous Conditions, won international acclaim, including a spot on the BBC’s list of 100 stories that shaped the world. Nervous Conditions was the first of a trilogy of novels telling the story of Zimbabwe’s independence through a village woman named Tambudzai.
That trilogy continues with The Book of Not and concludes with This Mournable Body. This Mournable Body is a searing novel about the obstacles facing women in Zimbabwe.
The Booker Prize for Fiction, formerly known as the Booker–McConnell Prize (1969–2001) and the Man Booker Prize (2002–2019), is a literary prize awarded each year for the best original novel written in the English language and published in the United Kingdom.
Other British writers on the list are Gabriel Krauze for Who They Was, Douglas Stuart for Shuggie Bain and Sophie Ward for Love and Other Thought Experiments. American contenders include Tyler for Redhead by the Side of the Road, Diane Cook for The New Wilderness, Avni Doshi for Burnt Sugar, Kiley Reid for Such a Fun Age, Brandon Taylor for Real Life, and C Pam Zhang for How Much of These Hills is Gold.
The prize, subject to intense speculation and a flurry of betting, usually brings the victor a huge boost in sales and profile.
Eight of the nominees are for first novels – an unusually high number for the prize.
“There are voices from minorities often unheard, stories that are fresh, bold and absorbing,” judges’ panel chair Margaret Busby said.
“Unplanned, our final selection encompasses both seasoned favourites and debut talents – a truly satisfying outcome.”
Gaby Wood, the award’s literary director, said it was “heartening to know that some authors who have launched their careers in the midst of Covid-19 may now have a chance to reach the readers they deserve”.
A six-book shortlist will be announced on September 15, and the winner will be revealed in November.
Established in 1969, the prize is open to English-language authors from around the world, but until 2014 only British, Irish and Commonwealth writers were eligible. That year’s change sparked fears among some Britons that it would become a US-dominated prize. Since then, there have been two American winners, Paul Beatty’s The Sellout in 2016 and George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo in 2017.
Last year, the competition tore up the rulebook by splitting the fiction award between Canada’s Margaret Atwood and Anglo-Nigerian author Bernardine Evaristo. – Online/Showbiz Reporter