Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o did not win the Nobel Prize in Literature, yet again. For years, the Kenyan writer has topped the list of contenders at betting sites, rivaling Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, or with the case this year, American novelist Don DeLillo. But on Oct. 13, the Swedish Academy presented the prize to the American singer-songwriter, Bob Dylan, whose reticence about the award since has been called “rude and arrogant,” and has left many wondering if he will ever accept it.
But Ngũgĩ should have won the award–not for the fame, money and global recognition that come with the prize–but because his literary and social activism has made Africa and the world a better place since his first book was published in 1964. For more than half a century, no amount of detention, harassment, prohibition or exile has deterred Ngũgĩ, whose writing has continued to broaden and influence a new generation of thinkers and writers.
A win for Ngũgĩ would also have been a win for Africa. For decades, Ngũgĩ’s novels, plays, and essays have listened to the cords of the African conscience, addressing the issues of nationalism, class, race and gender with energy and urgency. The breadth of his work is also almost unparalleled, bringing readers to more varied historical and cultural backgrounds.