Nigerian writer wins UK’s biggest literary prize fund

Anietie Isong (Photo Credit: Pukaar Magazine)

A Nigerian writer, Anietie Isong, has been named winner of the 2018 McKItterick Prize for his debut novel, Radio Sunrise.

Anietie, the first Nigerian to win the prize since it was established in 1990, joins an illustrious line of previous award winners including Helen Dunmore, Petina Gappah and Mark Haddon.

The McKitterick Prize, administered by the Society of Authors, honours the first novel by a writer aged over 40.

Anietie received the prize from broadcaster and actor, Stephen Fry at the Authors’ Awards ceremony in London, on July 19.

Eight awards were presented to 31 writers.

Among the winners were host of debut names along with recognised writers of fiction, non-fiction and poetry to share a prize fund of £98,000.

The ceremony, which took place at the Royal Institute of British Architects, saw over 400 guests from across the publishing industry come together, as the winners of other prizes administered by Society of Authors were revealed.

Prize judge Aamer Hussein, short story writer and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature said: “It’s a particular pleasure to discover the original, intriguing voice of Anietie Isong. In his brief, deftly told Radio Sunrise, the author depicts his often-hapless protagonist’s sexual mishaps and political travails on a journey to his hometown with a unique blend of humour and poignance. An intriguing and accomplished new novelist.”

The author, who is the brother of popular Nollywood filmmaker, Emem Isong, says he is excited to be named winner of the prize.

In an email interview with PREMIUM TIMES, he said he wrote Radio Sunrise to help draw attention to a myriad of issues in Nigeria.

“I am thrilled that my debut novel resonated with the judges. Radio Sunrise paints a satirical portrait of (post) post-colonial Nigeria that builds on the legacy of the great African satirist tradition of Ngugi Wa Thiongo and Ayi Kwei Armah. Its just a story about Ifiok, a young journalist working for the government radio station in Lagos, aspires to always do the right thing but the odds seem to be stacked against him.”

“Government pressures cause the funding to his radio drama to get cut off, his girlfriend leaves him when she discovers he is having an affair with an intern, and kidnappings and militancy are on the rise in the country.

“When Ifiok travels to his hometown to do a documentary on some ex-militants’ apparent redemption, a tragi-comic series of events will make him realise he is unable to swim against the tide.”

Aside from receiving the £4000 prize money, he revealed that he has been invited to speak at the Marlborough Literature Festival in the UK, in September.

Anietie has worked as a journalist, speechwriter and public relations manager in the UK and in Nigeria.

His writing has also received some awards, including a Commonwealth Short Story Award and the Remember Oluwale Writing Prize. He recently completed a PhD in New Media and Writing at De Montfort University, Leicester.

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Jayne Augoye is an assistant editor and covers the entertainment and lifestyle beat for PREMIUM TIMES. She has a master’s degree in Media and Communication from the Pan Atlantic University. Twitter@jaynejones


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