A Ugandan author based in Great Britain whose debut novel was initially rejected by British publishers for being ‘too African‘, has won one of the world’s richest literary prizes.
Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, the winner of the 2014 Commonwealth short fiction prize from Uganda but now living in the UK, has won one of the Windham Campbell Prizes from Yale University in the US.
She will receive $165,000 (£119,000). The prize money is more than double the amount that the Booker Prize winner gets, and organizers say it’s the richest award dedicated to literature after the Nobel Prize. Makumbi’s debut novel Kintu was first published in Kenya four years ago after British publishers rejected it for being “too African”. It was finally released in the UK this January. In Ugandan culture, Kintu is a mythological figure who appears in a legend of the Baganda of Uganda as a creation myth. According to this legend, Kintu was the first person on earth, the father of all people. Although her book is not about this Kintu, it follows a family who believes that there is a curse on them which has followed them over several generations, spanning more than 250 years.
I loved Makumbi’s Commonwealth short story, and lived through the pain of her main character. Now I cannot wait to read her first book and regal in Ugandan history and culture.