UK: Tsitsi Dangarembga among writers honoured by the Royal Society of Literature

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By The Guardian

LONDON: Writers including Tsitsi Dangarembga, Anne Carson and Mary Gaitskill have been honoured by the RSL International Writers programme, which recognises the contribution of writers across the globe to literature in English.

This is the second year of the programme, which is a lifelong award and honours a dozen writers a year. It is billed as a celebration of the power of literature to transcend borders and bring people together.

Also named this year are Maryse Condé, Cornelia Funke, Faïza Guène, Saidiya Hartman, Kim Hyesoon, Yōko Ogawa, Raja Shehadeh, Juan Gabriel Vásquez and Samar Yazbek.

The programme is part of RSL 200, a five-year festival launched in 2020 with a series of major new initiatives championing the great diversity of writing and writers in the UK.

Readers and writers were asked to recommend writers outside the UK for nomination and a panel chaired by Daniel Hahn reviewed the suggestions before putting forward a list to the RSL Council. The panel consisted of fellows and honorary fellows including Mojisola Adebayo, Nick Barley, Sharmilla Beezmohun, Maureen Freely, Nadifa Mohamed, Daljit Nagra, Nell Leyshon and Katherine Rundell.

Hahn said the programme had selected “writers of brilliance and originality, writers who have reimagined the possibilities of their genres and forms.

“It is a group that ranges widely in preoccupation, in style, in age and in geography; born in 10 countries but producing bodies of work that speak to readers and to fellow writers everywhere, transcending borders; and work that, thanks to their translators, now transcends their own languages, too,” he added.

Dangarembga, who was convicted this year by Zimbabwean authorities of promoting public violence after she attended a peaceful anti-government demonstration, said that writing could offer a community, adding: “By sharing each other’s experiences through literature we are given the opportunity to understand that most of our concerns as human beings are similar even though they play out differently in different environments.”

Daljit Nagra, chair of the Royal Society of Literature, said this year’s list featured “some of the world’s most exciting authors not only for the light they bear by their writing but also because of the power of their deeds, their ability to bring communities together”.

The inaugural RSL International Writers, appointed in 2021, are Don Mee Choi, 2022 Nobel prize in Literature winner Annie Ernaux, David Grossman, Jamaica Kincaid, Yan Lianke, Amin Maalouf, Alain Mabanckou, Javier Marías, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Claudia Rankine, Olga Tokarczuk and Dubravka Ugrešić. The 2023 programme is now open for nominations.