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Two Nigerians, South African vie for 9mobile prize for literature 2018


Ayobami Adebayo

Two Nigerians and a South African writer have been shortlisted for the 2018 9mobile Prize for Literature. The three shortlisted titles are Stay with Me by Nigeria’s Ayobami Adebayo, What it Means When a Man Falls Down From the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah, also a Nigerian, and Asylum by Marcus Low, from South Africa.

This shortlist announcement followed the longlist unveiled in December 2017, which featured nine books chosen by the judges: Nigerian academic and poet, Professor Harry Garuba (Chair), Ugandan writer, Doreen Baingana, and South African writer, Siphiwo Mahala.

The judges are now faced with the task of deciding which of these three impressive first-time writers will win the 2018 9mobile Prize for Literature. The winner will be announced during the Grand Finale event to be held this year.

The chair of judges, 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.”

Director, Brand and Experience, 9mobile, Elvis Ogiemwanye, expressed satisfaction that every stage of the 2018 9mobile Prize for Literature has been 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 winner at the grand finale. I’m sure it will be a great outing, with African literature the better for it.”

The winner of the 9mobile Prize 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, while all three finalists will have copies of their books purchased by 9mobile for distribution to schools, libraries and book clubs across Africa. This is in fulfillment of the company’s goal of making books available across the continent, and developing the publishing industry.

9mobile Prize for Literature is the first pan-African literary Prize that celebrates debut African writers of published fiction. It is open solely to writers from African countries, resident anywhere in the world. Zimbabwe’s NoViolet Bulawayo won the inaugural edition of the prize in 2013 with We Need New Names, and South African novelist Songeziwe Mahlangu won with Penumbra in 2014. Fiston Mwanza Mujila from the Democratic Republic of Congo won in 2015 with Tram 83, and in 2017 Nigeria’s Jowhor Ile won for his first book And After Many Days.

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