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Why Has Achebe Not Won Nobel Laureate?

Everyone admits he is Africa's father of prose. He has won every laurel in Literature except the prestigious Nobel Laureate. Why do you think Prof. Chinua Achebe has not won the top prize in Literature despite being eminently qualified for it?

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Absolutely not. The absence of a Nobel Prize on his mantlepiece or CV does not diminish his greatness. It just means that others have been adjudged as more deserving. That's all.

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The solution to a failure is to acknowledge the reason for failure. Are you saying Achebe is a failure?

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I did say earlier that a good number of black people had won the award. I agree with you on the failure point.

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Perhaps his best is not good enough.

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SMC,

I agree with you. But I think we should not continue to blame others for our failures. That Achebe has not won is not because he is black. Afterall, Soyinka won it. It must be because he has not done what other Lauareates did, which I think is to take a consistent stance against institutional decadence back home.

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A major problem with Africans is that they want to achieve in a short spate of time what took their counterparts in other parts of the world decades or even centuries.

true talk, Smc.

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Ndipe, let us face up to facts. The Nobel prize is over one hundred years old and it is still going strong. It took about six years to set up and did not achieve prominence in one year.

The problem with Africa is that the mentality is one where many awards/prizes which are set up are restricted to Africans. If this is not the case, the prize money is so poor that it does not and cannot attract average foreigners (talk much less of the cream of the crop). Nevertheless, I truly believe that if anyone in Africa sets up a bequest or other type of fund for the purpose of awarding excellence in any given field (without restricting such award to any particular race or nationality), and such person –

a) ensures that the fund will not be mismanaged, embezzled or will not run out of funds in the foreseeable future;

b) ensures that the fund is sustainable;

c) ensures the fund pays a reasonable sum of money (e.g. a minimum of £100,000) to the winner; and

d) provides for experts and/or the best of the best to be judges (not just any quack) in a manner that can predominantly be regarded as transparent (or at least genuine);

Such an award will be keenly contested by people from all over the world and will gather more momentum (as well as a higher calibre of contestants) as the years pass once the integrity of the award has been tested and found to be world class.

A major problem with Africans is that they want to achieve in a short spate of time what took their counterparts in other parts of the world decades or even centuries.

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Nice. But why is it that an award instituted by an African has little relevance in global affairs (for the most part), hence it is not highly coveted by other races, as we would over their award?

Why cant an award instituted by the likes of Achebe and his contemporaries give a run for the prestige of other awards like the Booker prize, the Nobel prize, et al?

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@ Shinystar, You are welcome and may God bless you too.

@Ndipe,

I did not say that Achebe deserved the prize over other leading writers (nor have I stated otherwise). The reality of life is that the Nobel prize is the highest award of it's kind that transcends many feilds. It is just like saying to an athlete that he/she should not aspire to an olympic gold medal or to a footballer that he should not aspire to the world cup because these prizes did not originate from Africa. The African Cup of Nations, Copa America etc are just not of the same calibre. Also, most actors aspire to an Academy Award. I do not think that the issue should be what race created what award, it should be that we compete with the rest of the world on equal footings and we measure up (or even better that we beat them to these prizes).

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SMC,

Thanks for the correction. God bless you.

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If you are on the shortlist you know. The selection process is not ultrasecret.

The problem i have with the Nobel is that the prize has quite a number of times been awarded to spite the governments of dissident/activist writers. That is not to say that such writers didnt have considerable merit, achievement-wise. Its just that on that same shortlist, many times you had another writer with (arguably) more talent and achievement, but because the political climate in his native land wasnt unfavourable enough or he hadnt been as vocal/visible in his political activism he would fail to get the prize.

This happens because of a clause written into the award criteria by Alfred Nobel himself before he died, we cannot actually blame the Nobel committee for that. Neither can we blame them if certain shameless writers are more concerned about the political sensibilities of the committee instead of staying true to their art and conscience. But they deserve a bash over the head for their simplistic interpretation of the criteria.

If you are not an idealist you can forget about the Nobel, no matter how good the quality of your prose. Which I think explains why the committee hasnt so much as glanced in the direction of pulp giants like Steven King, Ward Just, James Clavell etc.

Coming to Ndipe's consternation over the scramble for White/Western recognition by African writers, lets not decive ourselves, western prizes=money, for African writers. How many Africans read? Outside the mandatory stuff we cant avoid (such as textbooks, newspapers, correspondence) the average African, in his afterhours, would rather hang out with folks to down a couple of beers than bury his nose in a novel. This reading stuff is just not native to our culture.

You cant feed your family from the proceeds of literature in present day Nigeria. You would all starve. All the leading lights of our literary culture are scattered all over universities in the West, and even in the West its not all of them that are able to make a living solely off their creative works. They still have to teach. Having explained that. i think its only natural for them to look to these their adopted societies for recognition/respect which thay cannot get at home. Abi how many Nigerians would recognise Chris Abani, Ben Okri, Biyi Bandele Thomas, if they showed up on their doorsteps, talkess of buying their works. The exigencies of day-to-day survival is strife-torn Africa do not leave any room for such luxury. And yes, thats just what it is. Reading is a luxury in presentday Africa. You cant read for pleasure on an empty stomach, can you?

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Some peeps are making a big deal out of the Nobel prize. What difference is that award and the Noma award, apart from the prize money? There is no right word to put in describing people who are salivating over an award instituted by a white man. And as a correction, there was a war of words exchanged between Achebe and Soyinka over the later's triumph as a Nobel Laurete. This was in 1986, and I read in Newswatch magazine. I don't even want to dredge up the bad blood that erupted between Achebe and Soyinka. It was in the edition of Newswatch magazine.

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There is a total randomness to how the Nobe Prize is distributed, especially with all the secrecy that surrounds the process.

So if Thiongo gets it, it might for some arbitrary reason like a vision of one of the selectors for all we know.

But what is beyond speculation is that the prize confers credibility, and a status that is not shared by any other prize.

Achebe is too wise and old to be fretting over the prize(we pobly do it more than he does), but the prize is what it is

Perhaps when ours gains more value we can look back reproachfully at those days when we salivated over the 'white man's' prize/

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I am not totally conversant with the Negritude movement espoused by Leopold Senghor, but some of us Africans need to stop salivating over an award instituted by the white race, particularly those who are anti-colonialist. Wont it be an irony if Ngugi Wa Thiongo was awarded the Nobel prize in Literature? Do you think he deserves to win the award, because he is East Africa's leading writer?

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@Ndipe

You must wish for the return of the Negritude Movement.

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@SMC, since you have admitted that Achebe is one of Africa's leading writer (not Africa's leading writer), why then do you think he is deserving of the Nobel prize over his other contemporaries?

Truth is some people are making a big deal out of the Nobel prize. It is just a prize as Obong succintly stated earlier. Some of our writers seek the attention of the white race to award them with prizes to either elevate their ego, or confirm that 'they have arrived'. Tell me, is there any prize, instituted by an African that is covetly sought by the white race? No. But some of our same writers would be the same to strive for the equality of the races, while seeking attention from the caucasian to further prove that they are geniuses in their field. Yesterday, or today, I was doing a research on a somewhat popular Nigerian female writer, who, wrote that her work has caught the attention of Bill Clinton. Ok, Bill Clinton may be an admirer of your work, but would it have made any difference to you, if the president of Senegal or South Africa paid glowing reviews to your work?

Would a writer of this caliber, John Grisham want any President of an African country to write a glowing review on his novel? Probably not.

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Pls, do your research again.

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Unfortunately, I cannot answer your question as it is founded on a false premise to begin with. You wrongly assume that I agree that Achebe is Africa's leading writer. He is NOT. He is ONE of Africa's leading writer, but I do not think he is the leading writer.

I assume you will proceed to aske me who I think Africa's leading writer is. My answer is I do not think that currently there is any single writer that is (or should be) regarded as Africa's leading writer. Africa has a good number of outstanding writers and these include the Francophone and Arabic writers. I am not conceited enough to say that I know all the gret African writers much less have read all their works.

If the title of Africa's Leading Writer is bestowed merely on the volume of copies a writers single work has sold, then Achebe can be regarded as Africa's leading writer. But that is not the yardstick and he is not the single leading writer we have on the African continent.

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No, but we want them to acknowledge him as a great writer.

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@SMC, since the Nobel Prize is the yardstick of one's status in their respective field, whether they are in the sciences or the arts, I have to ask again, why is it that some blacks still look upto the white man to present us with an award, as a validation of our talent? Why can't the recipient institute an award to benefit people of different races? From my observation, any award that is instituted by an African solely benefits an African or the black race. Yet, some die hard anti-colonialists/supremacy of the black race of the white race, would ironically want the same caucasian to bestow them with an award as PROOF of their skills in their respective field. How about you INSTITUTE an award that globally overshadow the prestige of the Nobel prize and would benefit other races?

Let me ask this question, "Do you really think that his inability to win the prize has in someway dented his image as Africa's leading writer"? If your response is Yes, explain why, and if it is "No", then, why seek the award?

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I still can't believe Vs Naipaul has won the prize though.

Anyways lets not get off topic

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Quite a number of black men have won the award so please let's not start this racism issue.

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stop making a bog deal of the nobel. its just a prize.

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writer na writer, just because the man na Black, and time never reach for black then.

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Hmmm. I agree with SMC.

As with all professions in life, there is a pinnacle, an accolade that deifies greatness and accords ''immortality'' (for want of a better word)

This one happens to originate from Sweden.

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Okay,na politic cause am.

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It is not an irony at all. Why should everything instituted or created by people of a different race be anathema to Africans? People seem to suggest that if you desire or aspire something that originates from white people then you are being contradictory to your African beliefs. This is definitely not the case.

People aspire to great things and I'm sure that no writer, scientist etc will tell you that they want their work to be only enjoyed/appreciated locally. It is a mark of greatness for one's work to be recognised far and wide. One prize that transcends different fields is the Nobel prize. When the Swede, Alfred Nobel was creating the prize, he did not think of an award that would be restricted to his native country or even his continent. He wanted some recognition and plaudits for outstanding contributions in physics, chemistry, literature, peace, and physiology or medicine (no matter where these contributions came from).

Let us not trivialise the weight and importance that this prize has on experts and turn it into a black versus white thing. After all is said and done about how the selection process involves a lot of politics, no one can say that winners who have been awarded the prize are mediocre in their fields. The various Nobel prizes awarded in the different categories, have become the "supreme commendations in their subject areas". This fact more than anything is not lost on Achebe himself.

@ Original poster, the title of the topic is wrongly worded. It should read either "Why Has Achebe Not Won The Nobel Prize" or "Why is Achebe Not a Nobel Laureate"?

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because it is not for every tom dick harry and achebe.

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you couldnt be more wrong about this. achebe has been quite vocal in his stance against societal injustice, its just his manner of approach/personal style that differs. his public profile also been an inadvertent casualty of the extensive marginalisation of igbo people, many nigerians will not want to admit this, but its there, a direct fallout of the failed biafran adventure.

for an igbo man to be accepted into the mainstream of political discourse in post-biafra nigeria he has to lick quite a number of boots in the process. Achebe is too honest and proud to do that (not the bad specie of pride, mind you). so much for his seeming lack of a political voice within nigeria.

On the global stage the man is an unrepentant anticolonialist. But i think he carried this a bit too far in his impatient denunciation of joseph conrad, one of the finest icons of classic english literature, and his hot insinuations about the hypocrisy of the nobel committee. but he still remains one of the greatest living writers in the world today.

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For me, I think it is because he has not been an activist cum writer. Soyinka is a good writer but I have always considered Achebe a better one. But the former won because he fights injustice and corruption through speeches and writings. But Achebe is docile and hardly takes a stand against societal ills.

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i think because of Biafra War

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Achebe is highly unlikely to win the Nobel. He doesnt need it anyway. He has achieved much more than the laureates themselves. And he will go down in history among the greatest writers who never won the prize, because they weren't "politically correct" enough for the bleeping Nobel committee.

Bleep the Nobel. Achebe is tite without it. He doesnt need the money anymore, anyway.

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Any writer who is anti-colonialist should not be awarded the Nobel Prize at all!. The prestige of the Nobel prize is irrelevant to the subject matter. Now, do you think a fervent supporter of racial segregation should be conferred with the NAACP award?

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Ndipe,

It is certainly not a do-or-die affair but it remains the highest literary recognition in the world. That is indisputable and I think we should look at why our own Achebe has not won inspite of his prodigious talents and qualification.

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Should winning the Nobel prize be a do or die affair? It amazes me that some African writers who are anti-colonialist, would at the same time look upto the Nobel prize (instituted by a non-black man) as a validation of their eminent status in the literary field. What an irony!

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