by Hauwa Gambo
The Advisory Board for The Nigeria Prize for Literature recently approved an initial shortlist of six out of the 126 books submitted for the 2011 edition of the prize. A second shortlist of three books will be announced in September and a winner, if any, in October.
For two months by a panel of experts from across thenation, chaired by Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, a professor of English, University of Lagos and past co-winner of the prize went through several entries.
On the shortlist are children’s literature writer Uche Peter Umez (winner of the 2006 Commonwealth Short Story Prize and runner-up for the 2007 The Nigeria Prize for Literature) with his book The Runaway Hero; Philip Begho (author of over 70 books and two-time contender for The Nigeria Prize for Literature in 2004 and 2010) with his Aunty Felicia Goes to School; Ayodele Olofintuade, with Eno’s Story; Chinyere Obi-Obasi, with The Great Fall, Mai Nasara with The Missing Clock. Thelma Nwokeji,’ a new writer, also made the list with her debut, Red Nest.
According to a media release by the Prize,“This standard this year, even more than other years, is uncompromising. Even though Nigerian writers from all over the world submitted entries for the prize, the six authors on parade are all home-based.
Professor Akachi-Ezeigbo said the judges were particularly careful to avoid poorly edited books, books with low moral thresholds, junk reads, thrillers or books which can be read on auto-pilot. The emphasis is on good books that stay with you long past the point at which you put them down, she said.”
Past winners of the Nigeria Prize for Literature include such as Gabriel Okara, Mabel Segun for Reader’s Theatre; Ahmed Yerima, for Hard Ground, and the late Esiaba Irobi for his book, Cemetery Road.
The Nigeria Prize for Literature rotates yearly amongst four literary genres: prose fiction, poetry, drama and children’s literature. The 2011 prize goes to children’s literature. This year’s prize has a cash value of USD $100, 000 (One hundred thousand United States Dollars).