Nigerian Novelist Adichie Wins U.K.'s Orange Prize for Fiction
By Hephzibah Anderson
June 6 (Bloomberg) -- Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie won the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction, collecting 30,000 pounds ($59,775) and a bronze statuette called ``the Bessie'' after defeating competition from Anne Tyler and four other finalists in the U.K.'s annual literary award for women.
Adichie received the award during a ceremony at London's Royal Festival Hall for her second novel, ``Half of a Yellow Sun,'' a haunting look at Biafra's struggle in the late 1960s to break away from Nigeria.
This year's finalists had a strong international flavor, both in their nationalities and in their subject matter. Contenders included Indian-born Kiran Desai, whose ``The Inheritance of Loss'' explores how globalization influences a Himalayan village, and Xiaolu Guo from China, author of ``A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers,'' a romance.
Tyler, a Pulitzer Prize winner, was named for ``Digging to America,'' which wryly probes the complexities of identity and belonging through the lives of two American couples who adopt Korean infants.
Adichie's ``Half of a Yellow Sun,'' a Fourth Estate and Knopf title, focuses on a small group of characters to describe the civil war that erupted in Nigeria in 1967, when the Igbo people attempted to establish Biafra.
Twin Sisters, Houseboy
At its heart are twin sisters, beautiful Olanna and homely yet shrewd Kainene. Both have disappointed their wealthy father with their choice of lovers: Olanna by falling for a charismatic academic with revolutionary dreams, Kainene by taking up with a struggling English author. Ugwu, a 13-year-old houseboy, looks on as political violence eclipses these domestic dramas.
Epic in its emotional scope, this finely crafted saga depicts massacres, starvation and forced conscription with heartbreaking humanity, grappling with colonialism and tribalism, class and race. It's also infused, miraculously, with humor.
Born in Nigeria in 1977, Adichie was an Orange finalist in 2004 with her first novel, ``Purple Hibiscus.'' The daughter of a college professor, she grew up on the Nsukka campus of the University of Nigeria, in a house once occupied by novelist and erstwhile Biafran diplomat, Chinua Achebe.
She later studied in the U.S., where she obtained a masters degree in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University and served as a Hodder Fellow at Princeton. She currently divides her time between Nigeria and the U.S., where she's pursuing graduate work in African studies at Yale.
New Writers Award
Formerly known as the Orange Prize, the award is sponsored by the Orange brand of France Telecom SA and was designed to recognize novels that display ``excellence, originality and accessibility.'' The prize has previously gone to authors such as Zadie Smith for ``On Beauty'' and Lionel Shriver for ``We Need to Talk About Kevin.''
Adichie received the anonymously endowed prize at a champagne reception in the ballroom of newly refurbished Royal Festival Hall. Other finalists included Rachel Cusk for ``Arlington Park'' and Jane Harris for ``The Observations.''
Also presented this evening was the 10,000-pound Orange Broadband Award for New Writers. Now in its third year and open to debut works of fiction written in English and published in the U.K., it was snagged by Karen Connelly for her Burma-set thriller, ``The Lizard Cage.''