Feminist novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga up for Booker Prize

And what this means If she won a Booker

By Edward Tsumele

Renowned, Zimbabwean born feminist writer and filmmaker Tsitsi Dangrembga stands a good chance of winning the prestigious Booker Prize, as her latest novel This Mournable Body has been nominated for this highly respected literary award.

However this is only the first step towards literary glory for Dangramga, as currently the organisers have only released the longlist comprising 13 novels, and Dangaremga is one of the authors in that list, pending a short list that will only be announced in September, and the prize awarded in November.

The Booker Prize has in the past been criticized for not being inclusive enough, especially when it comes to awarding people of colour. It was only last year when a person of colour was awarded when British author Bernardine Evaristo (She has both British and Nigerian ancestry) shared the prize with Margaret Atwood.

The Booker Prize winners for 2019.Shared spoils: 2019 Booker prize winners Bernardine Evaristo (left) and Margaret Atwood (right). Aaron Chown/PA Archive/PA Images

 The fact that she had to share the prize with someone else, was also questioned.

This year, If Dangarembga wins, she will be the second person of colour to walk away with a Booker in its entire history spanning several decades. The Booker Prize for Fiction, formerly known as the Booker–McConnell Prize and the Man Booker Prize, is a literary prize awarded each year for the best original novel written in the English language and published in the United Kingdom. It was founded in 1969, and until last year, had never been won by a person of colour.

Dangarembga’s novel This Mournable Body is published by Faber &Faber in the UK, and locally by Jacana media. The mountain is high to climb though for Dangarembga as the quality of writers on the longlist is quite impressive and the themes are quite diverse this year.

Among the competitors are in the longlist is twice Booker prize recipient, Hilary Mantel who has been nominated this year for l’s latest book, and the final in her Wolf Hall trilogy, The Mirror & the Light. Both the two previous books in the trilogy – Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies won the Booker Prize, in 2009 and 2012 respectively. However, who knows, Dangaremba might just walk away with a Booker this year, and If she did so, she would not only make her country proud, but the whole continent proud as well.

Dangarembga first came into prominence on the literary scene when she published her first novel Nervous Conditions in 1988, which not only distinguished her as a literary giant on the African continent, but also put feminism at the forefront of her literary endeavor, way back when the concept of feminism was a foreign concept on the continent, and was only whispered about in elite circles.

Today that concept is at the forefront of broad conversations on the continent struggling to un-entangle itself from the grip of patriarchy. Nervous Conditions went on to win the Commonwealth Writers Prize in 1989.

Over the years, the author has also increasingly dabbled into filmmaking, but in 2018 wrote This Mournable Body, a critically acclaimed piece of literature that again, puts the issue of feminism at the forefront.

Her local publisher Jacana Media confirmed the nomination in a statement yesterday, July 30, 2020.

“Jacana Media congratulates Tsitsi Dangarembga for making the Booker Prize longlist with her novel, This Mournable Body.
The Guardian reports: “Award-winning Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga is in the running for This Mournable Body, a sequel to her 1988 novel Nervous Conditions, named by the BBC as one of the 100 books that shaped the world. Judges said This Mournable Body ‘drew an immediate reaction like a sharp intake of breath from all of us on the panel’.”
“This Mournable Body is a sublime reckoning with the young, sparkling Tambu of Nervous Conditions by her wry, adult self, and by a young postcolonial nation with the betrayal of its convictions.

Betrayal acts in the novel as a revolving prism. It is through distancing herself into the second person that Tambu allows her language to betray her, in this way letting us, and herself, into those places that are tender to touch. Three decades on, Dangarembga has written another classic,” affirms another Zimbabwean born author Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, who is currently based in the US where she is also an academic.

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