Chigozie Obioma’s debut novel, The Fishermen has just made the MAN Booker longlist which is a surprise; but the real surprise is that no one seems to have heard about him until now.
Obioma’s novel has been described as ‘mythic and mysterious’ and Helon Habila in a Guardian review, describes the book as “ an elegy to lost promise, to a golden age squandered, and yet it remains hopeful about the redemptive possibilities of a new generation – what I like to call the “post-nationalist generation”, described as “egrets” in the book: harbingers of a bright future.”
But why hasn’t the book made the rounds in Nigeria?
No one is sure but it surely will, now, with the Booker longlist but long before The Booker Obioma’s book, which according to its blurb, “is the story of an unforgettable childhood in 1990s Nigeria. When their father has to travel to a distant city for work, the brothers take advantage of his extended absence to skip school and go fishing. At the forbidden nearby river they encounter a madman, who predicts that one of the brothers, the eldest, would be killed by “a fisherman,” which he assumes to be one of his own brothers. Thus, an extraordinary tension is created and an almost mythic chain of events- both tragic and redemptive- is set into motion that will transform the lives and imaginations of the novel’s characters and its readers” has been buzzing.
Past Booker Winner, Eleanor Catton describes the book with superlatives “Awesome in the true sense of the word…Few novels deserve to be called ‘mythic,’ but Chigozie Obioma’s THE FISHERMEN is certainly one of them. A truly magnificent debut.”
And many agree because the book has been longlisted for the FT Oppenheimer awards, the Edinburgh festival first book award and the Center for fiction first novel award.
The Fishermen has also made the ‘Best of List’ for New York Times Editor’s choice, American Library Association’s 5 Best debuts of the spring, Best Book of the Year so far”– Christian Science Monitor , Apple/IBook’s Discover New author 2015 campaign, Marie Claire’s 7 best books of the month, Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Books of the week, Bookriot’s Best Books read in February, Kirkus Review’s “10 novels to Loose Yourself In”, and Oprah Magazine’s Ten Books to pick up now in June amongst others.
So, who is the amazing debutant? According to his website: Chigozie Obioma was born in Nigeria. He 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-Lincoln. A recipient of Hopwood Awards in fiction and poetry, his fiction has appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review and Transition. His novel, THE FISHERMEN, will be published originally in English by ONE/Pushkin Press (UK), Little, Brown (US/Canada), Scribe (Australia/NZ), and in 8 languages beginning from Spring 2015.
Looks like we already know the winner of the Etisalat Prize for Literature. Don’t worry, we’re not prophets. It happened in 2013.
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