The winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, as announced on Thursday, was not Ngugi wa Thiongó as many of the mainstream media outlets had predicted. I am surprised we’re not used to this by now. This is not the first time that speculation over who should win the prize has gone awry. In 2010, both local and international media were convinced that the prize would go to Ngugi that they went as far as coming to interview the writer’s former colleagues at the University of Nairobi. The prize that year went to Mario Vargas Llosa. The same thing happened in 2014 only for the prize to go to Patrick Modiano.
And yet when the winner was announced on Thursday, it still came as a shock. The prize, this time, went to Bob Dylan. Ever heard of Bob Dylan?
Bob who? Ngugi wa Thiong'o earned that Literature Nobel Prize years ago and just because they won't give it to him doesn't diminish his work
— Larry Madowo (@LarryMadowo) October 13, 2016
In case you know nothing about Bob Dylan or are just baffled like Larry Madowo, here’s what you need to know about him. Bob Dylan, born Robert Allen Zimmerman, is an American singer, songwriter who has been in the game for over five decades. His work dates back to the 1960’s when his songs became anthems for the anti-war and civil right movements of the time. After he was announced as the winner, the Guardian went on to describe Bob Dylan as “a mythical force in music; his gravelly voice and poetic lyrics musing over war, heartbreak, betrayal, death and moral faithlessness in songs that brought beauty to life’s greatest tragedies.”
The Nobel Academy said that Bob Dylan won the prize “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”
While no one is questioning Bob Dylan’s achievements as a musician and a popular one at that, the choice had Twitter (Kenyan and otherwise) confounded. While some Kenyans congratulated Dylan on his win, others worried that this might set a precedent;
Like Kanye West believing he had a chance at winning the next one.
They gave it to Bob Dylan. We can all agree it was a terrible mistake to let Kanye West believe he's eligible for a #NobelPrizeLiterature
— gnyauchi (@gmagaria) October 14, 2016
Or the possibility that Davido will be next year’s winner.
— Magunga (@theMagunga) October 13, 2016
However, some lamented the fact that Ngugi was yet again not the winner.
See, everyone agrees that Ngugi wa Thiong'o was robbed. Good thing we don't need external validation https://t.co/7tzM3Yz6Hp
— Larry Madowo (@LarryMadowo) October 14, 2016
— Dominic WALUBENGO (@waluwande) October 14, 2016
Hopefully, this year’s snub is not a sign that Ngugi might join Chinua Achebe on the list of African writers snubbed by the Nobel Academy. But it nonetheless, begs the question is this a case of better luck next time? Or should we abandon all hope?