Elnathan John has won the 2019 Prix Les Afriques for ‘Né un Mardi’, the French translation of his novel ‘Born On A Tuesday’.
He receives a cash prize of €5,400, artwork worth €3,000 and the purchase of 100 copies of his book at a ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland on June 29, 2019.
“a powerful first novel, perfectly handled, that immerses us in contemporary Nigeria, paints a complex portrait of the West African giant in full mutation and in the grip of an unprecedented religious, social and economic crisis.”
The award was created by the association La Cene Littéraire, and presented annually to a writer of African descent whose fiction work highlights a human, societal, ideological, political, cultural, economic or historical issue related to Africa or its diaspora.
At the centre of Elnathan John’s insightful debut novel about religious extremism in Nigeria is its eponymous protagonist, Dantala, whose name translates as Born on a Tuesday.
In far northwestern Nigeria, Dantala lives among a gang of street boys who sleep under a kuka tree. During the election, the boys are paid by the Small Party to cause trouble. When their attempt to burn down the opposition’s local headquarters ends in disaster, Dantala must run for his life, leaving his best friend behind. He makes his way to a mosque that provides him with food, shelter, and guidance. With his quick aptitude and modest nature, Dantala becomes a favored apprentice to the mosque’s sheikh. Before long, he is faced with a terrible conflict of loyalties, as one of the sheikh’s closest advisors begins to raise his own radical movement. When bloodshed erupts in the city around him, Dantala must decide what kind of Muslim—and what kind of man—he wants to be. Told in Dantala’s naïve, searching voice, this astonishing debut explores the ways in which young men are seduced by religious fundamentalism and violence.