Zimbabwean author and filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga has won the prestigious PEN Pinter Prize 2021 established in 2009 in memory of Nobel-Laureate playwright Harold Pinter.
She will deliver a keynote address at a ceremony hosted by British Library and English PEN on 11 October. Image
The prize is awarded annually to an outstanding author in the UK, Ireland and the Commonwealth, who, as Pinter said, casts an "unflinching, unswerving" gaze upon the world and shows "fierce intellectual determination… to define the real truth of our lives and our societies".
Dangarembga said: "I am grateful that my casting – in the words of Harold Pinter – an “unflinching, unswerving gaze” upon my country and its society has resonated with many people across the globe and this year with the jury of the PEN Pinter Prize 2021.
"I believe that the positive reception of literary works like mine helps to prove that we can unite around that which is positively human."
Dangarembga was chosen by this year’s judges: The Guardian’s Associate Editor for Culture and English PEN trustee, Claire Armitstead; literary critic and Editor-at-large for Canongate Ellah P. Wakatama, and poet Andrew McMillan.
One of the judges Armitstead said:
"Tsitsi Dangarembga has had an unusual and exemplary career as a writer, filmmaker and activist, who has made things happen for other people as well as achieving in her own right.
"Through her trilogy of novels, starting with Nervous Conditions in 1988 and culminating 30 years later in her fine, Booker shortlisted This Mournable Body, she has charted the development of Zimbabwe from a British colony to an autocratic and troubled free state.
"In doing so, she has held a magnifying glass up to the struggles of ordinary people, in so many parts of the world, to lead good lives in the increasingly corrupt and fractured new world order. Hers is a voice we all need to hear and heed."
Wakatama, a Zimbabwean, said:
"Dangarembga’s work through her books, activism and films demonstrates diligence, stoicism, and the ability to capture and communicate vital truths even amidst times of upheaval.
"It is an honour to join my colleagues in raising up the voice of a woman whose words have written the story of my country of birth with a clarity, bravery and honesty that is a rare and precious gift."
Said McMillan, another judge:
"I’m honoured to have been able to sit with my fellow judges, and to shine a light on Tsitsi Dangarembga in this way; and through her choice to highlight another international writer of courage.
"When Nervous Conditions was published in 1988 it was the first novel to be published in English by a black woman from Zimbabwe; here’s to our bookshelves, our syllabuses, collective imaginations being full of many more, from current and future generations, in years to come."

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