Pius Adesanmi, SaharaReporters weekly columnist and Professor of Literature and African Studies at Carleton University in Canada, has won the inaugural Penguin Prize for African Writing in the non-fiction category.
The award was presented to Professor Adesanmi today at a colourful ceremony in Johannesburg, South Africa, adding another significant feather to Nigeria’s cap in the arena of prestigious international writing prizes. Nigerian writers have variously won the Nobel, Man Booker, Commonwealth, Orange, NOMA, and Caine prizes in the past and the country can now proudly add the Penguin Prize to the tally. It will be recalled that Penguin Books had launched this new writing prize to much international media blitz in 2009. Nigeria shone in the shortlist that was subsequently announced in July 2010 which featured two other Nigerian writers, Chika Ezeanya (fiction) and Tanure Ojaide (non-fiction).
Professor Adesanmi’s winning entry, a book manuscript entitled “Africa, You’re Not a Country” will now be published by Penguin Books.
Professor Harry Garuba, a professor of literature and African studies at the University of Capetown, a long-time mentor of Adesanmi, who was judge in the fiction category, told SaharaReporters that his winning entry has a “strong sense of commitment and social engagement”
In a telephone chat with Sahara Reporters from Johannesburg immediately after the award ceremony, a thrilled Professor Adesanmi declared that the reality of it all was yet to sink in. According to him: “When E.C. Osondu won the Caine Prize last year, he described the whole experience as a whirl. Now I understand what he meant. One minute you are anonymous, the next minute it’s all klieg lights and handlers and journalists seeking interviews. That has been my life in the last couple of hours. I just want to crawl somewhere and keep writing.”
Adesanmi hails from Isanlu, Yagba East Local Government Area, Kogi State. He holds a first class degree in French from the University of Ilorin (1992), a masters degree in French from the University of Ibadan (1997), and a Ph.D in French from the University of British Columbia(2001). He has lived in France, South Africa, and the USA where he was an Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at the Pennsylvania State University before his current appointment in Canada. He came to national attention with his weekly column for Sahara Reporters and has been one of Nigeria’s most consistent public intellectuals in recent times. He also writes a Sunday column for NEXT newspaper.