Critically acclaimed novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga, a recipient of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, reputed for addressing issues such as women’s rights and equality has been awarded PEN Pinter Prize 2021.
The prestigious award, established in 2009 in memory of Nobel Literature Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter, who had been a Vice President of English PEN and an active member of the International PEN Writers in Prison honours a writer resident in Britain, the Republic of Ireland, the Commonwealth or former Commonwealth who, in the words of Harold Pinter’s Nobel 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 winner must the author of a significant body of plays, poetry, essays, or fiction of outstanding literary merit, written in English.
The 62 year old will accordingly deliver a keynote address at a ceremony hosted by British Library and English PEN on Monday 11 October.
Dangarembga commenting on the honour 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 gained international recognition 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 made history as the first book published in English by a black Zimbabwean woman. It went on to win the 1989 Commonwealth Book Prize for fiction and in 2018 and was named by the BBC as one of 100 stories that shaped the world.
Dangarembga begun studying medicine at the University of Cambridge but her studies halted when her parents moved back to Zimbabwe following independence.
She continued her education at The University of Zimbabwe and graduated with a degree in Psychology. She completed doctoral studies in African studies at Humboldt University of Berlin, and wrote her PhD thesis on the reception of African film.