University of California at Irvine (UCI) Professor Ngugi wa Thiong’o just won the 2019 Erich Maria Remarque Peace Prize.
Ngugi, who is currently a Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature and English at UCI, won the literary prize for his acclaimed collection of essays, ‘Decolonizing the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature.”
Published in 1986 by Heinemann as part of their African Writers Series, ‘Decolonizing the Mind’ is among Ngugi’s best-known and most widely-cited publications. His collection of essays makes a powerful argument for linguistic decolonization.
Ironically, the collection came out two years after Ngugi gave up creating his fictional works in English and began writing in his mother tongue, Gikuyu.
Announcing his award, the jury stated, “With Ngugi wa Thiong’o we are honoring a writer who is concerned with the self-determination of African cultures and with a dissociation from colonial constraints.
The jury further explained why Ngugi was being given the EMR Peace Prize: “His attempt to create a dialogue through literature in spite of or indeed because of the different languages evokes understanding for this continent and can thus contribute towards peace.”
Ngugi will be presented with the Peace Prize November 29, 2019 at a ceremony in Osnabruck, Germany.
The city is the birthplace of the novelist Erich Maria Remarque (1989-1970) who is best remembered for his 1928 novel, “All Quiet on the Western Front” Which was made into an award-winning film two years later.
Osnabruck is also where the Erich Maria Remarque Peace Centre was established in 1989.
Ngugi receives the 15th Remarque Peace Prize which is only given biennially. It is endowed with 25,000 euros (Sh2.8 million).
After Remarque died in 1970, his widow, actress Paulette Goddard left a bequest of $20 million to New York University to establish an institute of European Studies, named in honour of her late husband.