Helon Habila Ngalabak (born November 1967)[1] is a Nigerian novelist and poet, whose writing has won many prizes, including the Caine Prize in 2001.[2] He worked as a lecturer and journalist in Nigeria before moving in 2002 to England, where he was a Chevening Scholar at the University of East Anglia, and now teaches creative writing at George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia.[3][4][5]

Helon Habila
Habila in 2009
Habila in 2009
BornHelon Habila Ngalabak
1967 (age 56–57)
Kaltungo, Gombe State, Nigeria
Alma materUniversity of Jos
University of East Anglia
Notable awards2001 Caine Prize
2003 Commonwealth Writers' Prize, Africa category
2015 Windham–Campbell Literature Prize

Background edit

Helon Habila was born in Kaltungo, Gombe State, Nigeria, in 1967.[6] He studied English Language and Literature at the University of Jos and lectured for three years at the Federal Polytechnic, Bauchi.[7] In 1999, he went to Lagos to write for Hints magazine, moving to Vanguard newspaper as Literary Editor.[8]

Habila won the Music Society of Nigeria national poetry award for his poem "Another Age" in 2000,[9] the same year his short story collection Prison Stories was published.[8] He won the 2001 Caine Prize for a story from that collection, "Love Poems".[10] His first novel, Waiting for an Angel, was published in 2002, and the following year won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize (Africa Region, Best First Book).[11]

Moving to England in 2002, Habila became African Writing Fellow at the University of East Anglia.[12] In 2005 he was invited by Chinua Achebe to become the first Chinua Achebe Fellow at Bard College, NY,[13] where he spent a year writing and teaching, remaining in the US as a professor of creative writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.[14]

In 2006 he co-edited the British Council anthology New Writing 14.[15] His second novel, Measuring Time, published in 2007,[16] was nominated for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award,[17] the IMPAC Prize,[18] and in 2008 won the Virginia Library Foundation Prize for fiction.[19] His third novel, Oil on Water (2010), which deals with environmental pollution in the oil-rich Nigerian Delta, received generally positive review coverage. Bernardine Evaristo in The Guardian wrote:[20][21] "Habila's prose perfectly evokes the devastation of the oil-polluted wetlands"; Margaret Busby's review in The Independent said that[22] "Habila has a filmic ability to etch scenes on the imagination", and Aminatta Forna in The Daily Telegraph concluded:[23] "Habila is a skilful narrator and a master of structure."[24] Oil on Water was shortlisted for prizes including the PEN/Open Book Award,[25] Commonwealth Best Book, Africa Region,[26] and the Orion Book Award.[8] Habila's anthology The Granta Book of the African Short Story came out in September 2011.[27]

Habila is a founding member and currently serves on the advisory board of African Writers Trust,[28] "a non-profit entity which seeks to coordinate and bring together African writers in the Diaspora and writers on the continent to promote sharing of skills and other resources, and to foster knowledge and learning between the two groups."[29][30]

From July 2013 to June 2014, Habila was a DAAD Fellow in Berlin, Germany.[8]

He was appointed chair of the judging panel for the 2016 Etisalat Prize for Literature, alongside Elinor Sisulu and Edwige-Renée Dro.[31]

Habila was shortlisted for the Grand Prix of Literary Associations 2019, with his work entitled Travelers.[32]

Early inspiration for writing edit

Growing up in a period of political dysfunction and military dictatorships, Helon Habila as a teenager in the 1980s was motivated to rebel and fight against this notion. Writing became his voice and a means of protest. It provided an avenue to express himself and his beliefs. Many times, he has tried to step away from his usual fight against injustice and write about different unrelated topics. Nevertheless, he has been unable to and stick to writing to reject injustice, oppression, and exploitation.[33]

Cordite publishing company edit

Cordite Books is a new publishing company jointly owned by Habila and Parrésia Publishers.[34] Their first project was to make a call for submissions in 2013 for quality crime fiction manuscripts, the best to receive US$1,000 and a publishing deal with distribution across the continent.[35][36]

In his early days, Habila grew up reading Nigerian books in Hausa and then Macmillan's Pacesetters series, which was popular pan-African fiction mostly about crime in urban areas. This resonated with the actual happenings in cities where there is always a fight for power, a struggle to be important and issues of class. This setting has been a recurring scene in his life.[37]

With this interest in crime fiction, Helon noticed a gap in the market as a lot of books in Nigeria were by serious literary writers such as Chinua Achebe. After that you would only find non-fiction, religious or motivational books. There was hardly any middle ground for entertainment books and that is where Cordite Books fills the gap for crime fiction.[37]

Awards and honors edit

Bibliography edit

  • Prison Stories (2000), Epik Books
  • Waiting for an Angel: A Novel (2004), Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-101006-1
  • New Writing 14 (2006), Granta Books (co-edited with Lavinia Greenlaw).
  • Measuring Time: A Novel (2007), W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-05251-6.
  • Dreams, Miracles, and Jazz: An Anthology of New Africa Fiction (2007), Pan Macmillan (co-edited with Kadija George).
  • Oil on Water: A Novel (2010), Hamish Hamilton, ISBN 978-0-241-14486-2. Published in the US (2011) by W. W. Norton & Company, ISBN 978-0-393-33964-2
  • The Granta Book of the African Short Story (2011), Granta. ISBN 1-84708-247-5; ISBN 978-1-84708-247-3
  • The Chibok Girls (2016), Penguin Books. ISBN 9780241980897, OCLC 960835954
  • Travelers: A Novel (2019), W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-23959-1

Further reading edit

References edit

  1. ^ Helon Habila at British Council Transcultural Writing.
  2. ^ Cowley, Jason (2001-07-26). "To finish my book was an act of will". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  3. ^ "Directory of Chevening Alumni". Chevening UK Government Scholarships. 24 August 2014. Archived from the original on 23 August 2015.
  4. ^ International Herald Tribune
  5. ^ Guest, Katy, "Helon Habila: In search of Africa's angels", The Independent, 9 February 2007.
  6. ^ Nnodim, Rita, "Helon Habila". The Literary Encyclopedia, 19 July 2011.
  7. ^ "Helon Habila - Literature". literature.britishcouncil.org. Retrieved 2022-03-14.
  8. ^ a b c d Biography, Helon Habila website.
  9. ^ "Helon Habila, Writer, Author, Nigeria Personality Profiles". www.nigeriagalleria.com. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  10. ^ "Precious Winners", The Caine Prize.
  11. ^ "Helon Habila - Literature". literature.britishcouncil.org. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  12. ^ "An award winning poet and novelist". The Citizen. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  13. ^ Randol, Shaun. "Helon Habila is Okay With Being Called a Political Writer | The Mantle". www.themantle.com. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  14. ^ Helon Habila biography at British Council.
  15. ^ "Nigerian writer Helon Habila is writer-in-residence in Johannesburg in may". www.syltfoundation.com. 2 May 2015. Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  16. ^ Giles Foden, Review: "The power of two", The Guardian, 10 February 2007.
  17. ^ "Books: 'Travelers' tells migrants' stories". The East African. Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  18. ^ "Cancelled - Betty Jean Craige Lecture in Comparative Literature: Helon Habila | Franklin College of Arts and Sciences". www.franklin.uga.edu. Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  19. ^ Habila, Helon. "Stories by helon-habila on Guernica". Guernica. Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  20. ^ Evaristo, Bernardine (2011-11-10). "The Granta Book of the African Short Story edited by Helon Habila". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  21. ^ Evaristo, Bernardine (2010-09-24). "Oil on Water by Helon Habila | Book review". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  22. ^ "Oil On Water, By Helon Habila". The Independent. 2010-08-13. Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  23. ^ Forna, Aminatta (2010-10-31). "Oil on Water by Helon Habila: review". The Daily Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  24. ^ "Oil on Water by Helon Habila", Complete Review.
  25. ^ "Helon Habila – Mason Publishing Group". 24 March 2017. Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  26. ^ Alakam, Japhet (2011-02-21). "South Africa, Nigeria dominate African Region for Commonwealth Writers' Prize". Vanguard News. Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  27. ^ "5 Nigerian Caine prize winners". Latest Nigeria News, Nigerian Newspapers, Politics. 2013-07-10. Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  28. ^ "Advisory Board". African Writers Trust. Retrieved 24 August 2011.
  29. ^ "What is African Writers Trust?" African Writers Trust. Retrieved 24 August 2011.
  30. ^ Lamwaka, Beatrice, "Goretti Kyomuhendo of African Writers Trust", Afrolit, 22 May 2011. Retrieved 24 August 2011. Archived 20 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  31. ^ Obi-Young, Otosirieze (20 May 2017). "Jowhor Ile is the First Nigerian to Win the Etisalat Prize for Literature". Brittle Paper. Retrieved 19 May 2024.
  32. ^ Read on this link
  33. ^ Lou, Jo (2019-11-07). "Writing Is Always a Political Act". Electric Literature. Retrieved 2024-02-11.
  34. ^ "Helon Habila to Edit Cordite Books", Parrésia, 7 August 2013.
  35. ^ "Cordite Books: Call for Submissions", Parrésia, 10 August 2013.
  36. ^ Murua, James (8 September 2014). "Zimbabwe's Blessing Musariri wins Crime Fiction Contest". Writing Africa. Retrieved 11 May 2024.
  37. ^ a b "Nigerian Author Helon Habila". Ayiba Magazine. 2 September 2014. Retrieved 1 September 2016.
  38. ^ "Helon Habila — internationales literaturfestival berlin". www.literaturfestival.com. Retrieved 2022-03-14.
  39. ^ "Previous Winners". The Caine Prize for African Writing. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  40. ^ "Helon Habila — internationales literaturfestival berlin". www.literaturfestival.com. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  41. ^ "Virginia Quarterly Review Announces Annual Writing Awards". UVA Today. 2007-12-20. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  42. ^ "Habila, Peery, Hogan, and Smith Receive Literary Awards", Library of Virginia, 18 October 2008.
  43. ^ "Helon Habila, Nigerian Literary Genius - LifeAndTimes News". www.lifeandtimesnews.com. 10 June 2017. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  44. ^ Omoniyi, Tosin (2017-11-11). "Helon Habila, Maaza Mengiste named The New American Voices award judges - Premium Times Nigeria". Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  45. ^ "Helon Habila". Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  46. ^ "Prize Citation for Helon Habila". Windham–Campbell Literature Prize. 24 February 2015. Archived from the original on 26 February 2015. Retrieved 25 February 2015.
  47. ^ Online, Bamenda (May 8, 2020). "GPLA 2019: Seven Nominees for the Seventh Edition". Bamenda Online.
  48. ^ Ibeh, Chukwuebuka (June 25, 2020). "Helon Habila's Travelers Shortlisted for the 2020 James Tait Black Memorial Prize". Brittle Paper. Retrieved October 20, 2021.
  49. ^ Murua, James (June 28, 2020). "Helon Habila, Saidya Hartman on James Tait Black Memorial Prize 2020 Shortlists". Writing Africa. Retrieved 11 May 2024.

External links edit