By Joab Apollo
Tanzanian born novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah was on Thursday declared the winner of the 2021 Nobel Literature Prize by the Swedish Academy, but a generation of Kenyans feel that Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, the famed Kenyan author, should have won it before him.
They took to social networking sites to vent their displeasure at what they view as a deliberate snubbing of the Kenyan literary icon, who has not shied away from promoting African languages and culture.
The Swedish Academy said it honoured the 73-year old Gurnah, author of ten novels, including the internationally acclaimed “Paradise”, for “his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugees in the gulf between cultures and continents.”
That he is the first East African to win the prestigious prize, has rubbed a section of literature lovers in Kenya the wrong way. They feel that Professor Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, who has featured in the Nobel Literature Prize nominee list countless times, should have bagged the award.
Saleh Clarissa, a book lover, wrote on Facebook thus: “Dear, Professor Ngugi Wa Thiong’o. When your neighbour is blessed, know that God is at the next door. However, it seems that the gods, goddesses, godlings, the Oracles of the caves and hills are not in your favour.”
Laura Seay tweeted: “The Swedes are utterly determined to never honour Ngugi. And try as I might to ignore them, because European recognition really does not matter, every year, it fills me with rage.”
Milkah Njeri posed: “No! This is wrong! What crime did Ngugi commit against them?”
Writer and newspaper columnist Silas Nyanchwani tweeted: “Ngugi Wa Thiong’o should win the Nobel and all of us will be happy.”
Despite the rage from Ngugi’s fans, Gurnah was appraised by renowned Kenyan author, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, the winner of the 2003 Caine Prize for African Writing, as a literary giant.
“Gurnah writes our Africa sea imaginaries with humour, depth and gentleness even if he has to write about wounds and woundedness.” She stated
Gurnah is the fifth African to win the coveted prize. Previous winners include Nigeria’s Wole Soyinka, Naguib Mahfouz of Egypt and South Africa’s Nadine Gordimer and J.M Coetzee.