The winner of the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction 2007, one of the most prestigious literary awards in the UK, was just announced: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nigerian, born in 1977, for her second novel “Half of a Yellow Sun” (Fourth Estate). The 29 year old became the first African and the youngest ever winner of this prize. She won over a shortlist of finalists from five countries, including American Pulitzer winner Anne Tyler, Indian Booker Prize winner Kiran Desai, Chinese Xiaolu Guo and the British Jane Harris and Rachel Cusk.
During the awards ceremony in London, at the ballroom of the newly refurbished Royal Festival Hall, the 2007 Chair of Judges, Muriel Gray, presented the author with the GBP30,000 prize and the 'Bessie', a limited edition bronze figurine, having said: "The judges and I were hugely impressed by the power, ambition and skill of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's novel. It's astonishing, not just in the skillful subject matter, but in the brilliance of its accessibility. This is a moving and important book by an incredibly exciting author."
“Half of a Yellow Sun”, set in the 1960s during the Nigeria-Biafra war, is described as a novel about Africa, about moral responsibility, the end of colonialism, ethnic allegiances, class and race and about how love can complicate all these things. Chimamanda’s first novel, Purple Hibiscus, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2004 and the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for debut fiction.
In her first interview to the BBC after receiving the prize, Chimamanda expressed her obvious joy for this achievement, saying that she wasn't particularly proud for being the youngest, but for being the first African to win the prize. Asked about her views on the understanding of Africa by the main protagonists of G-8 meetings (currently taking place in Germany), from Bush to Bono, in relation to the subject of her book, she said "I don't see the problem as one of how much Africa is understood, but how Africa is approached... not as a hopeless continent with people only waiting for aid and things to be done for them."
The Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction was set up in 1996 to celebrate and promote fiction written by women throughout the world to the widest range of readers possible. The prize is awarded to the best novel of the year written in English by a woman. Previous winners of this prize are Zadie Smith for On Beauty (2006), Lionel Shriver for We Need to Talk About Kevin (2005), Andrea Levy for Small Island (2004), Valerie Martin for Property (2003), Ann Patchett for Bel Canto (2002), Kate Grenville for The Idea of Perfection (2001), Linda Grant for When I Lived in Modern Times (2000), Suzanne Berne for A Crime in the Neighbourhood (1999), Carol Shields for Larry's Party (1998), Anne Michaels for Fugitive Pieces (1997), and Helen Dunmore for A Spell of Winter (1996).
ADENDA: Meanwhile, Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe won the Man International Booker Prize Award 2007. (Read more about it here)
(Pictures by Getty Images/AFP and Orange)