The Nobel Prize for Literature is the grandest and biggest prize for literary achievement awarded to a writer whose works stood out to be a great benefit to humanity. Since the inception of the Nobel Prize for Literature, only four Africans have clenched this prestigous prize. Below are the African winners of Nobel Prize for Literature;
Akinwande Oluwole Babatunde Soyinka (born 13 July 1934), known as Wole Soyinka is a Nigerian playwright, poet and essayist. He was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature, the first African to be honoured in that category.
Soyinka was born into a Yoruba family in Abeokuta. In 1954, by he attended Government College in Ibadan, subsequently University College and University of Leeds in England. After studying in Nigeria and the UK, he worked with the Royal Court Theatre in London. He went on to write plays that were produced in both countries, in theatres and on radio. He took an active role in Nigeria’s political history and its struggle for independence from Great Britain.
Naguib Mahfouz born (December 11, 1911 – August 30, 2006) was an Egyptian writer who won the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature; making him the second on the list of African winners of Nobel Prize for Literature . He is regarded as one of the first contemporary writers of Arabic literature, along with Taha Hussein, to explore themes of existentialism. He published 34 novels, over 350 short stories, dozens of movie scripts, and five plays over a 70-year career. Many of his works have been made into Egyptian and foreign films.
Mahfouz’s prose is characterised by the blunt expression of his ideas. His written works covered a broad range of topics, including socialism, homosexuality, and God. Writing about some of these subjects was prohibited in Egypt.
Nadine Gordimer (20 November 1923 – 13 July 2014) was a South African writer, political activist and recipient of the 1991 Nobel Prize in Literature. She is the first female on the list of African winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature. She was recognized as a woman “who through her magnificent epic writing has – in the words of Alfred Nobel – been of very great benefit to humanity”.
Gordimer’s writing dealt with moral and racial issues, particularly apartheid in South Africa. Under that regime, works such as Burger’s Daughter and July’s People were banned. She was active in the anti-apartheid movement, joining the African National Congress during the days when the organization was banned, and gave Nelson Mandela advice on his famous 1964 defence speech at the trial which led to his conviction for life. She was also active in HIV/AIDS causes.
The last on the list of African winners of Nobel Prize for Literature is John Maxwell Coetzee (born 9 February 1940) is a South African-born novelist, essayist, linguist, translator and recipient of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature. He has also won the Booker Prize twice, the Jerusalem Prize, CNA Prize (thrice), the Prix Femina étranger, The Irish Times International Fiction Prize as well as other awards and honours, holds a number of honorary doctorates and is one of the most acclaimed and decorated authors in the English language. Coetzee has been the recipient of numerous awards throughout his career, although he has a reputation for avoiding award ceremonies.
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