Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga wins PEN Pinter Prize


Tsitsi Dangarembga, the booker-shortlisted writer from Zimbabwe, has won the PEN Pinter Prize 2021. According to the website, the annual award is given to an author who has a ‘significant body of poetry, essays, plays, or fiction of outstanding literary merit, written in English’.

On winning the prestigious honour, Dangarembga was quoted saying “I am grateful that my casting- in the words of Harold Pinter- an ‘unflinching, unswerving gaze’ upon my country and its society has resonated with many people across the globe and this year with the jury of PEN Pinter Prize. I believe that the positive reception of literary works like mine helps to prove that we can unite around that which is positively human”.

Tsitsi Dangarembga, the author of the book ‘Nervous Conditions’, was arrested in 2020 while she was protesting and taking a stand against corruption. She was also shortlisted for Booker Prize 2020 for her work, ‘This Mournable Body’.

While announcing the winner of the PEN Pinter Prize 2021, English PEN also informed via Twitter that Tsitsi Dangarembga will be receiving the award at a public ceremony on October 11, 2021, in partnership with the British Library.

Tsitsi Dangarembga: A film-maker, novelist, and activist

An acclaimed novelist:

Tsitsi Dangarembga is the author of the book ‘Nervous Conditions’, which she wrote when she was 25. Her work has been described as one of the important novels of the 20th century. The book is a story of a village girl called Tambudzai.

Nervous Conditions was then followed by ‘The Book of Not’, which is about Tambu’s teenage years, and the third part of the trilogy ‘This Mournable Body’, which was also Booker-shortlisted, was set in the Post-colonial Zimbabwe of the 1990s.

A Film-maker, an activist:

Dangarembga is also a playwright, filmmaker, and activist, who was arrested in 2020 while protesting in Harare.

She was charged with an intention to incite public violence. However, her case did not progress and the free speech organisations, along with her fellow writers, called for the charges against her to be dropped.

Why Tsitsi Dangarembga deserves to win PEN Pinter Prize?

The English PEN Trustee, Claire Armitstead stated that through her trilogy of novels, she has chartered the development of Zimbabwe from a British Colony to an autocratic and troubled free state.

In doing so, Dangarembga has held a magnifying glass up to the struggles of the ordinary people, in so many parts of the world, to lead good lives in the fractured and increasingly corrupt new world order.

The prestigious prize goes to a writer of outstanding literary merit who, as Harold Pinter had put in his Nobel speech, shows a fierce intellectual determination to define the real truth of our lives and societies.

The previous winners of the award include Margaret Atwood, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Linton Kwesi Johnson.

PEN Pinter Prize:

PEN Pinter Prize was established in 2009. It is given by the free speech campaigners English PEN in the memory of Nobel-laureate playwright Harold Pinter. The website informs that the winning writer must be a resident in the Republic of Ireland, Britain, the commonwealth, or the former commonwealth.

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