Ngugi Wa Thiong’o and David Diop are on the longlist of the Man Booker International Prize 2021 announced on March 29, 2021.

The Man Booker International Prize is awarded for a single book, which is translated into English and published in the UK every year. Both novels and short-story collections are eligible. The work of translators is equally rewarded, with the £50,000 prize divided between the author and the translator of the winning entry. In addition, each shortlisted author and translator will receive £1,000 each. The judges considered 126 books.

DR Congo’s Fiston Mwanza Mujila and Angola’s José Eduardo Agualusa made the longlist in the first year; Mulija’s was for Tram 83 and Agualusa’s was for A General Theory of Oblivion. Agualusa went on to be shortlisted for the prize only to lose out to Korean Han Kang for her book The Vegetarian.

The judging panel for the 2021 edition is chaired by cultural historian and novelist, Lucy Hughes-Hallett. She leads a panel consisting of journalist and writer, Aida Edemariam; Man Booker-shortlisted novelist, Neel Mukherjee; Professor of the History of Slavery, Olivette Otele; and poet, translator, and biographer, George Szirtes.

The longlist announced by this panel on Monday features thirteen of the books that they feel are the best in the last year. From these, there are two African writers featured.

  • At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop, translated from French by Anna Mocschovakis, Pushkin Press
  • The Perfect Nine: The Epic Gikuyu and Mumbi by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, translated from Gikuyu by the author, VINTAGE, Harvill Secker

Lucy Hughes-Hallett says: ‘In a year when we could scarcely leave our own houses, we judges have been crossing continents, transported by our reading. Every book we’ve read is unique. However a theme does emerge – migration, the pain of it, but also the fruitful interconnectedness of the modern world.’ ‘Not all writers stay in their native countries. Many do, and write wonderful fiction about their hometowns. But our longlist includes a Czech/Polish author’s vision of a drug-fuelled Swedish underworld, a Dutch author from Chile writing in Spanish about German and Danish scientists, and a Senegalese author writing from France about Africans fighting in a European war.’

The shortlist for the prize will be announced on 22 April 2021, and the winner announced on 2 June 2021 in a virtual celebration from Coventry, City of Culture 2021.