Zambian author Namwali Serpell has been crowned winner of one of the world’s most prestigious literary awards, the “Yale’s Windham Campbell Prizes 2020”.
Serpell’s competitors were: in nonfiction, Maria Tumarkin (Australia) and Anne Boyer (United States); in drama, Julia Cho (United States) and Aleshea Harris (United States); in poetry, Bhanu Kapil (United Kingdom/India) and Jonah Mixon-Webster (United States) and in fiction, Yiyun Lee (the United States/China) alongside Serpell.
Serpell alongside her fellow winners of the prize will receive the sum of $165,000 each to enhance their career. She released her debut novel “The Old Drift” in 2019, which talks about the story of three families – with people of African, European, and Indian descent – living in Zambia for two hundred years.
Describing the novel, Lusaka Times reports that part psychological realism, part magical realism, part historical adventure, and part futuristic thriller, the novel is an audacious, lush, sprawling, and altogether brilliant celebration of the artifice of fiction.
While given her recognition speech, Serpell said “I’m absolutely excited to win this award and honored to join the company of these renowned writers. The Windham-Campbell Prize has proven unique in celebrating writing in Africa based solely on its literary achievement; it’s deeply gratifying to be taken seriously as an artist.”
“The Old Drift” was also recognized as one of the 100 Notable Books of the Year by the New York Times , one of the 100 Must-Read Books of the Year by Time , and a book of the year by The Atlantic , BuzzFeed, and National Public Radio.
Though, named but not crowned as winner until September during an annual international literary festival at Yale celebrating the honored writers and introducing them to new audiences.
Since the prize’s began, 67 writers from 17 countries in Africa, Asia, Oceania, Europe, and North America have won the prize.