Ile wins Etisalat prize for literature, Iromuanya is runner-up

Chairman, Panel of Judges, 2016 Etisalat Prize for Literature, Helon Habila (left); Winner, Jowhor Ile and Chief Executive Officer, Etisalat Nigeria, Matthew Willsher, at the Grand Finale; Award at the weekend in Lagos

A Nigerian writer Jowhor Ile has been announced as the winner of the 2016 edition of Etisalat Prize for Literature.

Ile’s award, which is the most prestigious literature prize for first-time fiction writers of African origin, was given for his novel And After Many Days.

The prize presentation of £15,000 and an engraved Montblanc Meisterstück pen, among others, was made on Saturday night, May 20, 2017, at the Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos.

Another Nigerian, Julie Iromuanya, author of the book, Mr. & Mrs. Doctor, and a South African, Jacqui L’Ange, author of The Seed Thief emerged as the runners-up for the prize.

Ile’s announcement followed the unanimous selection of his book by the panel of judges, which was chaired by a multiple award-winning novelist and poet, Helon Habila.

Habila commended the winner and the runners-up, saying the prize-winning book met the required standards of originality, creative excellence and African sensibility, in line with the objective of the Etisalat Prize, which is to promote literary excellence in Africa.

The Chief Executive Officer, Etisalat Nigeria, Matthew Willsher, also congratulated the winners and restated the company’s commitment to offering Nigerians and other Africans the best platform to express their passion and creativity.

Born in 1980 in Port Harcourt, Ile took to writing early and has had his short stories published in McSweeney’s Quarterly and Litro Magazine.

His 256-page novel, And After Many Days, which was set in Port Harcourt in the oil-rich Niger-Delta region of Nigeria, tells the story of a family whose 17-year old son and sibling, Paul Utu, went missing during the rainy season of 1995.

Burdened with the sudden loss, the family was torn apart, as their search for answers uncovered several family secrets.

In addition to the prize money, other rewards for Ile include an Etisalat-sponsored fellowship at the University of East Anglia where Professor Giles Foden, author of The Last King of Scotland, will mentor him.

He and the two runners-up will participate in a multi-city book tour of three African countries also sponsored by Etisalat Nigeria. Furthermore, Etisalat will purchase 1,000 copies of books by the three authors for distribution to schools, libraries and book clubs across Africa.

Past winners of the Etisalat Prize for Literature include Democratic Republic of Congo’s Fiston Mwanza Mujila, for his novel, Tram 83; South African writer, Songeziwe Mahlangu for his novel, Penumbra and Zimbabwean writer NoViolet Bulawayo for her novel, We Need New Names.

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