Thursday, May 03, 2007

My goodness! It seems that at every turn of late a literary prize is being awarded. I am happy to announce that two more this week were won by Africans!

The 2007 Royal Society of Literature's Ondaatje Prize (£10 000) "for a distinguished work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry, evoking the spirit of a place" was awarded on Monday to the Libyan Hisham Matar for his IN THE COUNTRY OF MEN. Here are a couple of interesting links about him: a Stephen Moss interview in the Guardian talking about the process of writing the book and the appalling story of his father's torture and disappearance (silence since 1995). In the midst of this sadness he has space for levity, describing the writing life:
"The romantic idea of the penniless writer is false," he says. "It's terrible. I hated being in debt, I hated the anxiety of not knowing whether we could pay our rent that month. Thankfully, I had a wife who was very supportive and had faith and shared my madness. I got the call from my agent [to say Penguin had bought the novel as part of a six-figure, two-book deal] on the day I was ready to go to our landlord and say, 'You'll have to add this month's rent to what we owe you.' It came in the nick of time." Matar didn't have enough credit on his phone to call his wife with the good news; his landlord (evidently a saint) had to call her instead.
Here also a link to a Matar Literary Top 10 (don't we all love those lists?!).

Tuesday night saw the awarding of The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2007 (£10 000, although this time shared with his translator) to the Angolan José Eduardo Agualusa for THE BOOK OF CHAMELEONS. I am delighted. Agualusa and Mia Couto visited the shop together a few years back and we had a fascinating discussion about the state of African publishing and difficulties in making African writers known outside of the continent or, in fact, their own countries. He was charming and engaging. A much undervalued writer.

I sense a book shopping trip in the offing...

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Blogger The Traveller said...

Fantastic! I am halfway through The Book of Chameleons at the moment after happening across it in the library - I had no idea he was up for that prize. So far I'm enjoying it!

7:37 pm  
Anonymous Ann said...

Equiano, so sorry to read you've been ill. This has nothing to do with your post, but I was at a really interesting lecture the other day about translation and thought immediately of you. When I've caught up with my backlog of post from my own traumas (and I finally resigned yesterday!) I will e-mail you about it if that's OK with you. I'd like your take on it.

9:37 am  
Anonymous litlove said...

I've got The Country of Men on my shelves and am looking forward very much to it.

8:55 pm  
Blogger equiano said...

Traveller, I am jealous! I'll be picking a copy up this week I think. I look forward to hearing your thoughts once you're done.

Ann, I look away for a sec and you go and do dramatic things! I am better now (almost). Of course I'd love to hear from you by email - look forward to that.

Litlove, my copy is glaring reproachfully at me - I've had it a while now with no reasonable excuse for it still sitting there many books...

4:44 pm  

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