Zimbabwean Novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga Wins PEN Pinter Prize 2021

by Duke Magazine

Zimbabwean novelist, Tsitsi Dangarembga, has been announced the winner of this 2021 Pen Pinter Prize.

The big win for her is a drive to be a keynote speaker at a ceremony hosted by British Library and English PEN later in the year on October 11. 

The PEN Pinter Prize was established in 2009 in memory of Nobel-Laureate playwright Harold Pinter. The prize is awarded annually to a writer of outstanding literary merit resident in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, the Commonwealth or the former Commonwealth.

The winning writer must, in the words of Pinter’s Nobel Prize in Literature speech, casts an ‘unflinching, unswerving’ gaze upon the world and shows a ‘fierce intellectual determination to define the real truth of our lives and our societies’.

In her comment to the win, Dangarembga said, “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 the PEN Pinter Prize 2021. I believe that the positive reception of literary works like mine helps to prove that we can unite around that which is positively human.”

Dangarembga, who initially started studying medicine at the University of Cambridge, but couldn’t finish as her parents moved back to Zimbabwe at independence. She switched courses to study psychology at the University of Zimbabwe before furthering to study film in Germany.

Dangarembga rose to international fame in 1988 with her debut novel “Nervous Conditions”, a coming-of-age story about a girl’s battle to escape poverty and get an education in the then Rhodesia, before the country gained its independence from Britain in 1980.

It was however, the first book published in English by a black Zimbabwean woman.

The book won the 1989 Commonwealth Book Prize for fiction and in 2018, it was named by the BBC as one of 100 stories that shaped the world.

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