Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has been awarded PEN Pinter Prize 2018 for her “refusal to be deterred or detained by the categories of others”.
The annual prize is given annually to a writer from Britain, the Republic of Ireland or the 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”.
Praised by the judges for being “sophisticated beyond measure in her understanding of gender, race and global inequality”, Adichie will collect the accolade at a public ceremony at the British Library in October, where she will deliver an address and also announce her co-winner, the International Writer of Courage 2018, selected from a shortlist of international cases supported by English PEN.
This year’s judges, who named Adichie the winner of the prize, 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.
Freely said of Adichie, the winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Orange Prize, and the US National Book Critics Circle Award: “In this age of the privatised, marketised self, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the exception who defies the rule. 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.”
Byatt, director of English PEN, said Adichie’s writing and activism showed us what is important in the world, calling her “a very worthy winner of this extraordinary prize”, to which Fraser, Harold Pinter’s widow, added: “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.”
Adichie commented: “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.”
Adichie, whose work is published by Fourth Estate in the UK, often drawing on the Biafran war in Nigeria during the 1960s, released her first novel, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize-winning Purple Hibiscus, in 2003. Her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, followed in 2006, winning the Orange Prize and scooping Baileys’ ‘Best of the Best’ accolade in 2015. Her 2013 novel Americanah also won the US National Book Critics Circle Award. Her nonfiction includes We Should All Be Feminists (2014) and Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions (2017).
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the prize, which is to be marked with special edition hardback in addition to the annual pamphlet containing this year’s lecture. Containing 10 PEN Pinter Prize lectures, the limited edition hardback will be published by Faber & Faber, with the support of the Pinter Estate, which will be made available to the audience at the event.