Manchester-based author wins $165k award

Mark Rusher

A Manchester-based author, whose debut novel was initially rejected by British publishers, has won one of the world’s richest literary prizes.

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi – who is from Uganda and moved to Britain 17 years ago – has won a Windham Campbell prizes from the Yale University in the USA.

You will receive $165,000 (£119,000). “I don’t deserve, for a long, long time,” she says.

“I really have everything in writing. In order for this to happen is unbelievable.”

The prize money is more than double the amount that the Booker-prize-winner, and the organizers say it is the richest prize for literature after the Nobel prize.

Makumbi is one of eight authors to receive the Windham Campbell prizes in this year spanning fiction, non-fiction, drama and poetry and have published the only winner, only a full-length work.

Two other British authors are also on the list, both for non-fiction – Sarah Bakewell, and Olivia Laing.To The African”‘

The awards were created by writer Donald Windham and also carry the name of his partner, Sandy M Campbell. They were first awarded in the year 2013 to “provide authors the opportunity to focus on their work independent of financial concerns.”

Makumbi, said the news of the award came out of the blue. “He’s an American, and usually it is people who have so many books [behind them],” she said. “So, I’m surprised, as I was one of them.”

Makumbi’s debut novel Kintu was first published in Kenya four years ago, after the British publishers, it is rejected as being “too African”. It was finally published in the UK in January of this year.

Oneworld Publications

The author said the British publisher and the reader, to have as something you can relate to, whether it is the Western characters, or familiar settings and actions – if you read about Africa.

But she describes Kintu as the “correct, correct Africa”.

The book evokes the myths and legends to tell the story of a Ugandan family who believe they have been cursed over 250 years.

“I really had says closed to Europe,” Makumbi. “But it was a bit too much – the language, the way I wrote it, – they [the British] were not used to this kind of writing. But they are now starting to open up, I think.

“The reader will recognize, OK, if I want to explore Africa, I would prefer to be told from an African point of view, rather than being told things, to want the I expected to know.””It’s about a paycheque’

Makumbi was a high school teacher before he moved to England to pursue her dream of a career. It has creative writing, studied in Manchester, then wrote Kintu, while a PhD in Lancaster.

The Windham Campbell prize will help spread the word about the book – but for Makumbi, for now at least, the prize money will be the thing that changes your life.

“I would say it is more a question of, to be known and whatever, but it is mainly a matter of a paycheque,” she admits.

“It is mainly about [I] ordinary things to do, the other people that have a job. I have a partner, but he has the merit of not much, and I’m not really pulling my weight.

“I just take and take, and we are a family, a work, it is so huge. And then, of course, now I can go and do the research in different countries for my next project.”‘Shocked’ by the British life

You don’t have to travel far to research a collection of short stories that will come out in January of next year. It means: love Made in Manchester.

“I write the stories as a kind of writing, back to Uganda, you will be informed of what is happening with us,” she says. “I tell them,” you want to go to the UK? Wait a minute. First, read my story.'”

So, what is Uganda from the UK is impressive, when you do it?

“It is not the world, you have said it is. If you are in Uganda, the UK, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, the Savoy, the Ritz, because this is how the UK was sold.

“You never see the working class. This is what it takes to surprise you. It is just shocking.

“You come here and see you, the working class and you’re like, I should pay attention to Dickens!”

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