The Booker Prizes are the most coveted of all literary prizes. Over the years, we have seen incredible authors from all over the world—the likes of Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan, Joyce Carol Oates, Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Chinua Achebe—make the long list, the shortlist and some of them have even gone on to win.
It was announced on the fourteenth of this month that Zimbabwean author, Petina Gappah, will be among the list of judges for the 2022 Prize. Petina Gappah is not a name we come across often, so I did some research into this author and I must say… I like what I’m seeing.
Here’s what you need to know about Petina Gappah.
Petina Gappah is an awarded and dedicated author.
She is the author of An Elegy for Easterly (2009), The Book of Memory (2015), Rotten Row (2016) and her latest novel, Out of Darkness, Shining Light (2019).
She writes realist fiction and has been shortlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, the Orwell Prize, the Prix Femina etranger and the LA Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and long listed for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2015.
Her debut novel, An Elegy for Easterly, has been translated into several languages including Dutch, Finnish, Chinese, French, Japanese, Norwegian, Serbian and Swedish.
She was once called the Judas Iscariot of Zimbabwe.
Following the release of her first novel, An Elegy for Easterly, the Zimbabwean state media waged a verbal assault on Petina’s character. Petina has never been shy of criticising the Zimbabwean government. And so, her novel was perceived to be anti-state and this led to a salvo between the media and herself.
In her documentary with Al Jazeera, Petina revealed that the state media went as far as to refer to her as the “Judas Iscariot of Zimbabwe”.
Her side-hustle used to be… International Trade Law.
She has law degrees (plural, y’all) from Cambridge Graz University and Zimbabwe University.
In an article for The Guardian in 2016, Petina wrote about her midlife crisis, writing Out of Darkness, Shining Light, and how she quit her job as a lawyer in Geneva to become an artist-in-residence in Berlin.
For the most part, she is currently a writer.
She really loves to write about the Livingstones.
In her most recent book, Out of Darkness, Shining Light, Petina writes about the burial of Dr David Livingstone from the perspective of the group of Africans who carried his body fifteen miles across the continent of Africa to be buried in his home country, England.
She revealed that the novel at the time had been in the works for over 23 years and required a heavy amount of research in order to maintain historical accuracy.
She learned a whole language to write that book.
It comes as no surprise that she did an extensive amount of research in order to write Out of Darkness, Shining Light.
What is surprising though is that Petina, being the dedicated writer she is, learned a whole new language, Swahili, in order to write this book. In an interview with The Guardian, she drops this interesting fact as if it is a simple feat.
If you’d like to know more about Petina Gappah, I encourage you to watch her new documentary on Al Jazeera available on YouTube.