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Esteemed Kenyan Authour Makes History

An author who was imprisoned by the Kenyan government is a contender for the 2021 International Booker Prize with a “dazzling” verse novel written in the Bantu language of Gikuyu. The Perfect Nine: The Epic Gikuyu and Mumbi by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o was named on the 13-strong longlist for the £62,000 award, which celebrates the best translated fiction from around the world. The award has previously been shared between an author and their English-language translator – but Thiong’o is the first listed writer to translate his own novel. The Perfect Nine, a “glorious epic about the founding of Kenya’s Gikuyu people and the ideals of beauty, courage and unity” is the first novel written in in the regional language of Gikuyu to win a Booker nomination. A renowned writer and academic in his home country, Thiong’o was imprisoned without trial by the Kenyan authorities in 1977 after writing plays and novels which criticised the ruling elite. Released a year later, he was forced to live in exile for 24 years. The judges said: “Ngũgĩ masterfully sings us through an origin story written in verse. This book is a magisterial and poetic tale about women’s place in a society of Gods. It is also about disability and how expectations shape and determine characters’ spiritual anchoring.”