Kenyan writer Ngugi wins Catalonia literary award

Ngugi Wa Thiongo

Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o has been awarded the 31st Catalonia International Prize given by the Catalan government.

Ngugi was awarded for his distinguished and courageous literary work and his defence of African languages, based on the notion of language as culture and collective memory.

“Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o is one of the most prolific and renowned African writers,” reads the jury’s communiqué quoted by Catalan News.

 It adds: “In all the genres he cultivates – novels, essays, memoirs, theatre – he combines the most profound African traditions with a sensitive yet merciless description of the social and political situation in his native Kenya.”

Victoria University

The prize is given annually since 1989 to those who have contributed to developing cultural, scientific and human values around the world through their creative work.

This year, 74 candidates from 35 countries were vying for the award.

Ngũgĩ wa Thiongio will succeed Vinton Cerf, known for being one of the fathers of the Internet.

Cerf was the first technologist to receive the prize, with other awarded figures including the philosopher Karl Popper, oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, politician Václav Havel, writer Doris Lessing, and activist Malala Yousafzai.

The prize will be awarded to the Kenyan author during the first quarter of 2020 at a ceremony chaired by Catalan president Quim Torra.

The award comes hot on the heels of yet another major prize, the Erich Maria Remarque Peace Prize, that was offered by the Germans last month.

His other awards include; 1973: Lotus Prize for Literature, 2001: Nonino International Prize for Literature, 2012: National Book Critics Circle Award, 2014: Nicolás Guillén Lifetime Achievement Award for Philosophical Literature, 2016: Park Kyong-ni Prize and 2018: Grand Prix des mécènes of the GPLA 2018, for his entire body of work.

Literary work

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o is already an award-winning writer and academic who writes primarily in Gikuyu.

His work includes novels, plays, short stories, and essays, ranging from literary and social criticism to children’s literature.

He is the founder and editor of the Gikuyu-language journal Mũtĩiri.

His works include novels like; Weep Not, Child, The River Between, A Grain of Wheat, Petals of Blood, Devil on the Cross, Matigari etc.

His major plays include; The Black Hermit, The Trial of Dedan Kimathi and popular I Will Marry When I Want.

His major essays include; Homecoming: Writers in Politics: Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature  and Moving the Centre: The Struggle for Cultural Freedom.

His famous Memoir Detained: A Writer’s Prison Diary (1981) is also worth mentioning.



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