Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has been awarded the 2018 PEN Pinter prize. The critically acclaimed author was awarded for her writing and activism “that has travelled across many frontiers showing us what is important in the world” says Antonia Byatt, Director of English PEN. The announcement was made on the organiser’s website on 12 June.
The PEN Pinter Prize was established in 2009 by the charity English PEN, which defends freedom of expression and promotes literature, in memory of Nobel-Laureate playwright Harold Pinter. The prize is awarded annually to a writer of outstanding literary merit from Britain, the Republic of Ireland or the Commonwealth who, in the words of Harold Pinter’s Nobel Prize in Literature speech, casts an ‘unflinching, unswerving’ gaze upon the world and shows a ‘fierce intellectual determination … to define the real truth of our lives and our societies’. Over the last decade, it has been won by writers including Margaret Atwood, Carol Ann Duffy, and Tom Stoppard.
Adichie was hailed by Harold Pinter’s widow, the biographer Antonia Fraser, as a writer who is not only a brilliant, compelling writer but who embodies in herself those qualities of courage and outspokenness which Harold much admired.
“In this age of the privatised, marketised self, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the exception who defies the rule,” said Maureen Freely, chair of trustees for English PEN.
“In her gorgeous fictions, but just as much in her TED talks and essays, she refuses to be deterred or detained by the categories of others. Sophisticated beyond measure in her understanding of gender, race, and global inequality, she guides us through the revolving doors of identity politics, liberating us all.”
Freely was joined on the judging panel by the writers President of English PEN Philippe Sands; writer and critic Alex Clark; poet, playwright and performer Inua Ellams as well as Fraser.
The novelist’s 2004 debut Purple Hibiscus won the Commonwealth writers’ prize, Half of a Yellow Sun won her the Orange prize in 2006, and Americanah took the US National Book Critics Circle award in 2014. Adichie is also known for her TED talks and essays, her most recent being Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, which began as advice for a friend about how to raise her daughter as a feminist.
“I admired Harold Pinter’s talent, his courage, his lucid dedication to telling his truth, and I am honoured to be given an award in his name,” said Adichie.
Adichie will receive the award at a public ceremony at the British Library on the evening of Tuesday 9 October, where she will deliver an address. She will also announce her co-winner, the 2018 International Writer of Courage by choosing an author “who is active in defence of freedom of expression, often at great risk to their own safety and liberty”. Last year’s winner, the Belfast poet Michael Longley, shared the honour with the Iranian poet Mahvash Sabet.
“Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s writing and activism has travelled across so many frontiers showing us what is important in the world. She is a very worthy winner of this extraordinary prize,” said Antonia Byatt, Director of English PEN.