Feelers emerging from the Swedish Academy indicate that it will announce the winner of the 110th Nobel Prize for Literature today
Last year, American singer and songwriter, Bob Dylan, was awarded the prize and thus became the second songwriter to win it, 103 years after Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore, emerged winner in 1913.
For daring to break from convention by naming another songwriter as the 2016 laureate, the academy was severely criticised and hailed all over the globe. It was also accused of ‘polluting’ the prize, which was previously deemed the exclusive preserve of writers published in print.
The last few days have witnessed intense speculation about the likely winner of this year’s prize.
However, there is an indication that the Nobel committee received and approved applications from 195 candidates for the 2017 prize. The list of writers believed to be in contention for the prize include Kenyan author, Ngugi Wa Thiongo; Canadian writer, Margaret Atwood; Haruki Murakami from Japan and the South Korean, Ko Un, to name but a few.
For the second time running, some members of the African literati are rooting for Ngugi to win the literary prize this time. Several posts have appeared on the social media in the last few days from writers and well meaning individuals on the continent pledging their support to the author.
In one post on Facebook, Nigerian writer based in the United States, Okey Ndibe, wrote, “It’s high speculation season on the 2017 Nobel laureate for literature. One of my all-time favourite writers, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, is once more part of the conversation. My view: Ngugi is so accomplished the Nobel Prize should desire to win him.”
Ndibe’s post immediately drew reactions from other social media users who also wished the judges’ decision would swing in favour of the African writer. While some retained the old doubts about the judges’ real criteria for selecting the winner, others hoped that there would not be a repeat of what happened in 2016.
Ngugi’s son, Mukoma Wa Ngugi, betrayed his excitement when he also posted on Facebook on Wednesday, “On my father winning the Nobel Prize for Literature this Thursday, I am going full reverse psychology. Not this year, please!”
Beyond their yearning for the fame and prestige that comes with winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, it appears that many Kenyans on social media also feel that Ngugi’s possible emergence as winner will be vital to the unity of their country.
One of them, James Wamuhiu, seemed to convey this feeling in his response to Mukoma’s post. He wrote, “We need Ngugi to get it. It will bring us together as a country, now that we are so divided because of our desire to end aristocracy that has persisted for too long since independence.
“Wangari Maathai did unite us when we were also facing a national crisis. For a moment we appreciated her as a country. If Ngugi wins, Matigari will be very happy. God bless Ngugi.”
Founded in 1901, the Nobel is considered to be the biggest and most prestigious literature prize in the world with a cash reward of almost $1m. It is awarded every year, as directed by the founder, Alfred Nobel, to the “the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction.”