A Nigerian author, Chigozie Obioma, has won the 2020 Internationaler Literaturpreis Award through the German translation of his second novel, ‘An Orchestra of Minorities’.
The award was founded in 2009 and has since been honouring outstanding contemporary works especially first-time translations “to rack up voices of relatively unknown authors in Germany”.
In the past, the winning duo for the best novel and the best translation are honoured with a major celebration in which other authors and translators of the books nominated for the final round are invited .
There is usually a cash prize of €20,000/$24,000 for the winning author and €15,000 for the translation.
But this year, in its 12th edition, Germany’s national centre for presentation and discussion of international contemporary arts, Haus der Welt der Kulturen (HKW), alongside the seven-member jury, decided not to honour a single book.
There are six titles on the shortlist. Organisers say there will be 12 winners instead of 2, among whom the prize money of £36,000 will be divided.
“In the current precarious situation for many people working in the cultural field, the organisers wanted to honor the work and voices of many, rather than a single work,” a statement by the organisers said.
Mr Obioma’s book, whose German title is “Das Weinen der Vögel” was among the six books selected from a diverse list and recognised by the German literary community.
The novel follows the story of Chinonso, a hardly surviving poultry farmer who stops a woman from committing suicide, his quest for material advancement and the unsettling end to his dream as a Nigerian on a foreign land.
A jury member, Daniel Medin, considered “An Orchestra of Minorities” to be a philosophical novel “of rare ambition and breadth that questions the freedom of the human will with relentless precision.”
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Praising the Nigerian author for capturing African religions which are “firmly anchored in Igbo cosmology” in the novel, Mr Medin described Mr Obioma as an innovator of the African novel, also with his debut novel, “The Fishermen.”
“An Orchestra of Minorities” was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2019.
Winning the International Literature Award for Mr Obioma amidst coronavirus blues is pleasing.
“The past few months have been difficult for me, following the lockdown, coming down with the virus myself and the recent events. But I’m happy to share this bit of good news: the German translation of my second novel, DAS WEINEN DER VOGEL, has won this year’s Internationaler Literaturpreis, Germany’s prestigious prize for foreign fiction,” he said in a Facebook post.
“While I’m grateful and elated, I owe this win to my wonderful translator, Nicholai von Schweder, a remarkable man and the very best. Also, my wonderful publisher, Piper Verlag. Thank you to all who continue to support my work. It means so much to me!”
Previous winners of the award have included Teju Cole, Indian-French author, Shumona Sinhaand, and Mexican Fernanda Melchior.