Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Chimamanda Adichie and Nnedi Okorafor nominated for an alternative Nobel Prize for Literature award

Following the cancellation of this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature as a result of a sexual scandal, that rocked the Swedish Academy which has been awarding the Nobel Prize in Literature since 1901, The New Academy, also based in Sweden, has offered a new vote-based alternative to the prestigious award.

Alexandra Pascalidou, a Swedish journalist, took it upon herself to create an alternative. “I just thought, ‘Why do the authors have to pay the price for this mess?’” she told the New York Times. Pascalidou teamed up with over 100 prominent Swedish cultural figures — actors, novelists and a rapper — to start a new prize for literature and there are three African writers on their longlist.

Two of the African writers in contention are Nigerian women — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Americanah) and Nnedi Okorafor (Akata Witch) — while the third is renowned Kenyan author, Ngugi wa Thiong’o (A Grain of Wheat).

Adichie’s reach continues to extend with each passing day — the author and a feminist was just recently conferred with an honorary degree at Duke, while Okorafor’s multiple collaborations with Marvel are set to make her a household name. Asides winning awards, works of both Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie featured on former U.S President Obama’s 2018 summer reading list.  

Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Photo via Brittle Paper.

The new prize is open for the public to vote from a list of 47 nominees selected by Swedish librarians. The nominee list includes heavyweight figures as Marilynne Robinson, Haruki Murakami, JK Rowling, Amos Oz, Margaret Atwood, Thomas Pynchon, Arundhati Roy, Zadie Smith, singer Patti Smith and the British fantasy writer Neil Gaiman.

The voting will decide three finalists while librarians will choose a fourth. Given the Nobel Prize’s questionable history of 14 female winners out of 114 laureates, the Alternative Nobel’s shortlist will be restricted by gender—two women, two men. The winner of the New Academy Prize in Literature will receive one million kronor (around $112,000). A banquet will also be held in the winner’s honour just like the Nobel Laureate.

The longlist has been praised by Book Riot as “representing a new level of diversity for the typically predictable Nobel list,” and by The Guardian as “a wonderfully eclectic lineup.” The worldwide open voting is now live and will remain open until August 14.