Kwame Dawes & Boris Boubacar Diop Are Finalists for Neustadt International Prize for Literature

The $50,000 award, given by the University of Oklahoma-based World Literature Today, has historically predicted future Nobel Prize in Literature winners.
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Kwame Dawes by Chris Abani.

Kwame Dawes by Chris Abani.

The Ghanaian Jamaican poet Kwame Dawes and the Senegalese writer Boris Boubacar Diop have been named finalists for the 2022 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, alongside eight other writers, recognizing their “significant contributions to world literature.” Founded in 2003, the prize is endowed by the Neustadt family.

Here are the ten finalists, with the books considered to be “representative” of their work:

  • Jean-Pierre Balpe (France), Herbier Anglais
  • Kwame Dawes (Ghana / Jamaica), Prophets
  • Natalie Diaz (United States), Postcolonial Love Poem
  • Boris Boubacar Diop (Senegal), Murambi: The Book of Bones
  • Michális Ganás (Greece), A Greek Ballad: Selected Poems
  • Micheline Aharonian Marcom (United States), Three Apples Fell from Heaven
  • Naomi Shihab Nye (United States), The Tiny Journalist
  • Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (Russia), There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby
  • Cristina Rivera Garza (Mexico), The Iliac Crest
  • Reina María Rodríguez (Cuba), The Winter Garden Photograph 

The ten were selected by 10 jurors, who will now meet to announce the winner on October 26, at the 2021 Neustadt Literary Festival, co-hosted by World Literature Today and the University of Oklahoma.

“This jury continues the tradition of having top-tier international writers assessing the work of peers,” said Robert Con Davis-Undiano, executive director of World Literature Today. “Literature is a key component of our ability to recognize what makes us human, and the work of the Neustadt jury year after year is a contemporary tribute to the critical place that literature has in our lives.”

Here are the prize bios of Diop and Dawes:

Boris Boubacar Diop at the Stellfox Lecture. Photo by Carl Socolow.
Boris Boubacar Diop at the Stellfox Lecture. Photo by Carl Socolow.

Francophone writer Boris Boubacar Diop (b. 1946, Dakar, Senegal) is the author of many novels, plays, and essays. He was awarded the Senegalese Republic Grand Prize in 1990 for Les Tambours de la mémoire as well as the Prix Tropiques for The Knight and His Shadow. His Doomi Golo was the first novel to be translated from Wolof into English. Toni Morrison called his novel Murambi: The Book of the Bones “a miracle,” and the Zimbabwe International Book Fair listed it as one of the one hundred best African books of the twentieth century. Nominated by Jennifer Croft / Representative text: Murambi: The Book of Bones (translated by Fiona McLaughlin).

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Kwame Dawes was born in Ghana and raised in Jamaica. He is the author of twenty-two collections of poetry, including, most recently, Nebraska: Poems (2019), and also author of fiction, nonfiction, and plays. The co-founder of the Calabash International Literary Festival, Dawes often collaborates with other musicians and artists to create performances based on his poetry. The recipient of the Windham-Campbell Prize for Poetry, he is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Chancellor’s Professor of English at the University of Nebraska, and the Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie SchoonerNominated by Matthew Shenoda / Representative text: Prophets.

The winner will receive a silver replica of an eagle feather, a prize certificate, and a festival hosted in their honor.

The 2020 winner was the Albanian writer Ismail Kadare. Other previous winners include Czesław Miłosz, Gabriel García Márquez, and Edwidge Danticat.

Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young, a writer, culture journalist, curator, and media consultant, is the founder and editor of Open Country Mag. He was editor of Folio Nigeria, CNN’s exclusive media affiliate in Africa, and has led or joined editorial teams at a host of platforms and projects in African literature. He has written about the Nigerian culture scene, covering innovation in over 20 fields including art, music, tech, sports, cuisine, fashion, journalism, sculpture, beauty, health, and activism. In literature, his Profile subjects have included Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Teju Cole, Damon Galgut, and Tsitsi Dangarembga. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He sat on the judging panel of The Morland Scholarship, a British grant for African writers, and currently chairs the panel of The Gerald Kraak Prize, a South African initiative for storytelling about gender, sexuality, and social justice. He has an MA in African Studies and a BA in English and History from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. He is currently studying for an MFA at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. In 2019, he received the inaugural The Future Awards Africa Prize for Literature. In 2020, he was named among “The 100 Most Influential Young Nigerians” by Avance Media. Twitter & Instagram: @otosirieze. Website: otosirieze.com.

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