Ngugi wa Thiong’o, UCI Distinguished Professor of comparative literature and English, has been awarded the 2019 Erich Maria Remarque Peace Prize for Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature, about language and its constructive role in national culture, history and identity. The collection of essays advocates linguistic decolonization and is one of his best-known and most-cited publications. Since 1984, Ngugi has written in his native Kikuyu (Gikuyu), spoken primarily by the Kikuyu people, the largest ethnic group in Kenya, and then translated his text into English. “With Ngugi wa Thiong’o we are honouring a writer who is concerned with the self-determination of African cultures and with a dissociation from colonial constraints,” says the jury statement. “His attempt to create a dialogue through literature in spite of or indeed because of the different languages evokes understanding for this continent and can thus contribute towards peace.” The prize, endowed with 25,000 euros (more than $28,000), is awarded for fictional, journalistic or scientific works that demonstrate an exemplary commitment to peace, humanity and freedom. It will be presented Nov. 29 at a ceremony in Osnabrück, Germany, the birthplace of novelist Erich Maria Remarque, author of All Quiet on the Western Front.
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