[The JRB Daily] Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie awarded 2018 PEN Pinter Prize for ‘fierce intellectual determination to define the real truth of our lives and our societies’

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has been awarded the 2018 PEN Pinter Prize.

The prize is awarded annually to a writer who, in the words of Harold Pinter’s Nobel Prize 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’. 

The PEN Pinter Prize was launched in 2009 by English PEN in honour of the late playwright. The winner must be from Britain, the Republic of Ireland or the Commonwealth, and the author of ‘a significant body of plays, poetry, or fiction of outstanding literary merit’, written in English. 

Adichie’s work has been translated into more than thirty languages. She is the author of the novels Purple Hibiscus, which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award; Half of a Yellow Sun, which won the Orange Prize; and Americanah, a 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award winner. Her short story collection, The Thing Around Your Neck, was published in 2009, and her most recent book, Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, was published in March 2017.

Adichie has also delivered two landmark TED Talks: ‘The Danger of a Single Story’ in 2009, and ‘We Should All Be Feminists’, which was published as a book in 2014.

On receiving the award, the Nigerian author said: ‘I admired Harold Pinter’s talent, his courage, his lucid dedication to telling his truth, and I am honoured to be given an award in his name.’

The PEN Pinter Prize is shared with an ‘international writer of courage’, who is active in defence of freedom of expression, often at great risk to their own safety and liberty, and who is selected by English PEN’s Writers at Risk Committee, in association with the winner. 

The 2017 PEN Pinter Prize was awarded to poet Michael Longley, who shared the prize with Iranian poet Mahvash Sabet.

Adichie will receive the award and announced her co-winner at a public ceremony at the British Library on Tuesday, 9 October 2018, where she will deliver an address.

This year’s prize judges were President of English PEN Philippe Sands; historian, biographer and widow of Harold Pinter Antonia Fraser; writer and critic Alex Clark; poet, playwright and performer Inua Ellams, and chair of judges and chair of trustees for English PEN Maureen Freely.

‘In this age of the privatised, marketised self, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the exception who defies the rule,’ Freely said. ‘In her gorgeous fictions, but just as much in her TED talks and essays, she refuses to be deterred or detained by the categories of others. Sophisticated beyond measure in her understanding of gender, race, and global inequality, she guides us through the revolving doors of identity politics, liberating us all.’


Fraser said: ‘I greet the tenth award of the PEN Pinter Prize with great enthusiasm. Not only is Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie a brilliant, compelling writer but she embodies in herself those qualities of courage and outspokenness which Harold much admired.’

Antonia Byatt, Director of English PEN, said: ‘Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s writing and activism has travelled across so many frontiers showing us what is important in the world. She is a very worthy winner of this extraordinary prize.’

Former winners of the PEN Pinter Prize are Michael Longley (2017), Margaret Atwood (2016), James Fenton (2015), Salman Rushdie (2014), Tom Stoppard (2013), Carol Ann Duffy (2012), David Hare (2011), Hanif Kureishi (2010) and Tony Harrison (2009). Former International Writers of Courage have been: Mahvash Sabet (2017), Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury aks Tutul (2016), Raif Badawi (2015), Mazen Darwish (2014), Iryna Khalip (2013), Samar Yazbek (2012), Roberto Saviano (2011), Lydia Cacho (2010) and Zarganar (Maung Thura) (2009).

Header image: Wani Olatunde

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