In 1986, Prof. Wole Soyinka put Nigeria on the world map when he became the first African to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Since then, he has remained globally recognized as one of the most revered cerebral gladiators in the literary world. Another iconic writer of Soyinka’s generation, the late Prof. Chinua Achebe also won several international awards, including the Man Booker international prize. Widely referred to as the father of modern African literature, his famous book, Things Fall Apart has been translated into several languages.
The Ambassador of Germany to Nigeria, Michael Zenner, echoed the astounding track record of Nigerian writers in Europe within different genres of literature. Zenner disclosed that Nigerian authors are on the best seller list in Germany. He added that over the years, Nigerian authors have received European literary awards while a number of African novels have been translated into many European languages. In addition to Achebe and Soyinka, the works of other great Nigerian writers like Buchi Emecheta and the Booker Prize winner Ben Okri have been translated into German, the authors are highly respected in Germany for their literary prowess and ingenuity.
In addition to these two great authors, Nigeria has produced a long list of writers plying their craft at home and in the Diaspora, doing both their country and Africa proud. The most endearing legacy of these literary giants is their inspiration and influence on the younger contemporary writers who have stepped into their shoes by winning laurels across the globe.
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Meanwhile, in the last four years, younger Nigerian writers like Chris Abani, Helon Habila and the exceptional Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie have enjoyed huge readership in Germany. For instance, Adichie’s novel Americanah became a best seller there. Young Nigerian authors are winning prizes and receiving invitations to literary festivals all over Germany. Emerging novelists like Teju Cole, author of Every Day Is a Thief, Chigozie Obioma (The Dark River) and Lola Shoneyin (The Secret Lives of Women of Baba Sagi) are making waves as well. Due to this growing interest, German publishers are already throwing their doors wide open for the upcoming generation of Nigerian authors.
This new breed of young writers are uniquely endowed with the gift of ancient storytellers as they continue the great tradition of exceptional Nigerian writers. At a book reading in Abuja sponsored by the German Embassy in Nigeria, writer and journalist Abubakar Adam Ibrahim shared selections from his first novel, Season of Crimson Blossoms, a story about life in northern Nigeria, The book offers new perspectives on contemporary issues such as child marriage and the fusion of culture, tradition and religion in the life of the people.
At the reading, Ambassador Zenner applauded the literary works of Abubakar, whose debut collection of short stories, The Whispering Trees, was long-listed for the inaugural edition of the Etisalat Prize for Literature in 2014. He further observed that Abubakar belongs to a group of young, promising authors who neither lives in Lagos nor sojourns abroad but lives in Abuja and writes about northern Nigeria. According to Zenner, Season of Crimson Blossoms belongs to what is called the “new world literature” in Germany because it comes from an area beyond the usual centers of literary works in Nigeria.
While speaking at an exhibition which also took place in Abuja, Zenner explained that the German Embassy in Nigeria promotes arts and cultural activities in Nigeria because it helps in building mutual understanding and friendship between Germany and Nigeria.
He listed cultural relations as the third pillar of German foreign policy, besides political and economic relations, adding that the promotion of cultural values represents a significant contribution of utmost importance in efforts geared towards creating and maintaining peace amongst people globally.