After being on the long-list for a few weeks, Nigerian-born author, Chigozie Obioma, has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2015 for his novel ‘The Fishermen’. The Man Booker Prize for fiction is awarded annually, and until this year, was open only to writers from the UK and the Commonwealth, Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe. Obioma is only one among six authors on the shortlist, but his work has done Africa proud.
Set in the 1990s Nigeria, ‘The Fishermen’ is the story of four brothers from a middle-class family who take advantage of their father’s extended absence to skip school and go fishing. One day at the river, they encounter a vision-seeing madman who predicts that the eldest of them will be killed by one of his brothers – a fisherman. This prophecy of doom and tragedy is one that follows the boys through their lives, shaking up the family and leading to a heartbreaking climax.
Already deemed a ‘classic tale of boyhood’, ‘The Fishermen’ is both a coming-of-age novel, and a powerful portrait of familial and brotherly bonds. It is Obioma’s first novel and translation rights have already been sold in 12 languages.
Dubbed by the New York Times as Chinua Achebe’s heir, his novel has widely received critical acclaim for excellent storytelling and lyrical prose. While Percy Zvomuya who reviewed the novel for The Sunday Times insists that Obioma’s inclusion in the Man Booker Prize list reflects the committee’s need to meet their African quota, the view has been refuted by several other critics, Nigeria’s Obinna Udenwe inclusive. Wall Street Journal unabashedly called it “an entrancing modern-day legend”, and numerous critics have referred to it as powerful, brilliant and moving.
Chigozie Obioma was born in Nigeria but has lived in Cyprus, Turkey and now the United States where he is a professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska. He has previously been the recipient of the Hopwood Award in Fiction and Poetry, and his works have appeared in various publications.
Chigozie is not the first Nigerian to be shortlisted for the prize. In 1991, 32-year old Ben Okri won the prize for his novel, The Famished Road, and also held the title of the youngest author to win the prize until 2013 when a 28-year old writer won the prize.
Each shortlisted author will receive a specially-bound edition of their book along with £2,500. The winner of the annual £50,000 prize will be announced on 13 October during a ceremony at London’s Guildhall.