Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Young writers start new chapter in Nigeria's literary history

(CNN) -- A 19-year-old Nigerian undergraduate student has signed a two-novel deal with the British publisher Faber, making her its youngest ever woman author.


Chibundu Onuzo, a history student at King's College London, will have her first novel, "The Spider King's Daughter," published next year.

"I wrote the book in my last year at school," Onuzo told CNN. "I've been writing since I was 10, but this was the first novel I finished, so it was very liberating to be able to write 'The End.'"

Onuzo, who moved to England to go to school five years ago, found an agent before she had even finished writing, and sealed the book deal on her first meeting with a publisher

Her editor at Faber, Sarah Savitt, describes Onuzo as a "very talented writer at the beginning of an exciting writing career."

Nigerian writers past and present

Wole Soyinka, now 76, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986.



Chinua Achebe, 80, whose first novel "Things Fall Apart" (1958) is a modern classic and has been translated into 40 languages. Achebe won the Man Booker International Prize in 2007.



Ben Okri, 51, won the Man Booker Prize in 1991 for "The Famished Road."



Helen Oyeyemi wrote her highly-acclaimed "The Icarus Girl" when she was just 18 and has written two novels since;



Nigerian writers Helon Habila, Segun Afolabi and E.C. Osondu also won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2001, 2005 and 2009 respectively.

Onuzo is the latest of a new generation of talented young Nigerian writers -- many of them female -- who have made their mark in the literary world in the past few years.

They include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who won the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction for "Half of A Yellow Sun;" and Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, published her first novel, "I Do Not Come To You By Chance," last year, which has also garnered several awards, including the Commonwealth Writers Prize.

Nigeria has a rich literary tradition spanning the 50 years since its independence, including one Nobel Prize for Literature, one Man Booker Prize winner, one Man Booker International Prize, one Orange Prize winner, and three winners of the Caine Prize for African Writing, which is often described as the "African Booker."

It is an impressive haul, even for Africa's most populous country with a population of 150 million, but according to those in the know, it is just the beginning.

Publishers and writers say there is an explosion of young Nigerian writers about to gain even more international recognition.

Jeremy Weate, a British man who set up Cassava Republic publishing company in Abuja in 2007 with his Nigerian wife Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, said: "This is a very exciting time and the best of Nigerian writing is still ahead.

"There is some awareness overseas of Nigerian authors and an increasing number of Nigerians winning awards, but we believe this is just the beginning.

"There is still a huge amount of undiscovered and up-and-coming talent in Nigeria."





http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/africa/09/21/nigerian.authors/index.htm?hpt=C2

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