THE 2018 edition of the 9mobile Prize for Literature entered the home stretch midweek with the announcement of the shortlist.
Stay with Me by Nigeria’s Ayobami Adebayo; What it Means When a Man Falls Down From the Sky by Lesley NnekaArimah, also a Nigerian; and Asylum by Marcus Low, from South Africa, were the three shortlisted titles.
The finalists emerged from the over 100 entries received for the fifth edition of the Pan-African literary prize which has Nigerian academic and poet, Harry Garuba, Ugandan writer Doreen Baingana, and South African writer Siphiwo Mahala as judges.
Speaking on the process, jury chair, Professor Harry Garuba, said the three finalists were selected after a thorough, objective and painstaking review of their books: “These three books embody what we would like to see coming from young African writers – fresh storylines, intriguing plots, and characters you would want to meet in real life.
“We are happy to have reached this stage. Knowing the high standards desired by the 9mobile Prize for Literature, we ensured that the adjudication process was objective while upholding quality and relevance. We congratulate 9mobile and the shortlisted writers, and note that the entire exercise we went through gives us a glimpse of an even more promising and rewarding literary industry for African writers,” he said.
Director, Brand and Experience, 9mobile, Elvis Ogiemwanye, expressed satisfaction that every stage of the adjudication process was inspiring. He further commended the judges and patrons for their diligence; while restating the company’s support for African literature.
He said: “We at 9mobile have always been amazed by the resilience and commitment of writers on the continent in spite of the huge challenges they face. This was, in fact, one of the reasons we initiated the prize and it’s heartwarming that we are almost at the end of another cycle. We are as excited as the rest of Africa and can’t wait to see who will emerge the winner at the grand finale. I’m sure it will be a great outing, with African literature the better for it.”
Fittingly, the finalists are high flyers, emerging stars in the literary firmament. Adebayo holds BA and MA degrees in Literature in English from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife. She has received fellowships and residencies from across the world.
Adebayo’s compatriot, Nneka-Arimah, also boasts an impressive profile. Born in the UK but raised mostly in Nigeria and the US, she currently lives in Minneapolis.
The only male contender, Low, is no pushover. He has an MA in creative writing from the University of Cape Town and is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Epidemiology.
The winner, to be unveiled later in the year at a grand ceremony in Lagos, will receive £15,000, an engraved Montblanc Meisterstück pen, and a 9mobile-sponsored fellowship at the University of East Anglia, where he/she will be mentored by renowned literature teacher Professor Giles Foden, author of The Last King of Scotland.
All three finalists will also have copies of their books purchased by 9mobile for distribution to schools, libraries and book clubs across Africa in fulfilment of the company’s goal of making books available across the continent, and developing the publishing industry.