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Booker Prize 2021 Shortlist: ‘Absorbing Global Stories Of Life And Death’

Booker Prize

Booker Prize 2021 shortlist: ‘Absorbing global stories of life and death’

Novels set in Sri Lanka and South Africa, Cardiff Bay and the outer cosmos are among those to have been nominated for this year’s Booker Prize.

The chair of the judges said choosing the six “immersive” books had felt “transporting in a year when so many of us have been confined to home”.

The list includes three American writers and, for the second year in a row, only one British author.

The longlisted authors who missed out included Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro.

The novelists who did make the cut include Pulitzer Prize-winning American writer Richard Powers and Damon Galgut, from South Africa, who has been nominated for the Booker twice before.

The prestigious British-based £50,000 award is open to any authors writing in English, and the scarcity of UK authors was “just a coincidence”, according to one judge.

“While judging the Booker Prize we look at not just what the writers are saying but how they are saying it, and therefore nationalities do not really matter,” said Chigozie Obioma, who is on the panel six years after being shortlisted twice himself.

Last year, the sole British representative, Douglas Stuart, went on to win. This year, British-Somali Nadifa Mohamed is nominated for her third novel The Fortune Men.

The nominees in full:

Anuk Arudpragasam – A Passage North. In his second novel, the Sri Lankan author explores the lasting effects of the trauma and violence of his country’s civil war, and a past love affair. “We felt that he was taking on with great seriousness this question of, how can you grasp the present, while also trying to make sense of the past?” said judge Horatia Harrod.
Damon Galgut – The Promise. The South African writer’s ninth novel follows a white family over the decades from the Apartheid era. “The ultimate question that the novel asks is, is justice – true justice – possible in this world?” Obioma said. “If it is, then what might that look like?”

Patricia Lockwood – No One Is Talking About This. This is the first novel by the American poet and memoirist. It follows a woman catapulted to social media fame, told using what Booker judge Rowan Williams described as the “unpromising medium of online prattle”. When reality impinges on this online existence, it ends up being a story “with intense, emotional energy and truthfulness”, he said.

Nadifa Mohamed – The Fortune Men. Mohamed was born in Somaliland and raised in Britain, and her book is set in the docks of post-war Cardiff Bay. It fictionalises the story of Mahmood Mattan, a real Somali sailor who was wrongly accused of murder. “This is a story about the past that has great significance for the present,” said judging chair Maya Jasanoff.

Richard Powers – Bewilderment. The US author won the Pulitzer for his last novel The Overstory. Here, a widowed astrobiologist turns to experimental treatments to help his nine-year-old son with additional needs – and take him to other planets. It is “a clarion call for us all to wake up and realise what our minds might be truly capable of if we were less obedient to the status quo,” judge Natascha McElhone said.

Maggie Shipstead – Great Circle. Another American author, Shipstead’s third novel intertwines the stories of a daring post-war female pilot and a 21st century Hollywood actress who is trying to rescue her reputation by making a film about her. It “speaks to ever-present questions about freedom and constraints, particularly in women’s lives”, Jasanoff said.
Jasanoff explained: “Our shortlist is immersive – stories that you can get absorbed in, voices that get inside your head, which feels quite reflective of the experience of reading in lockdown.

“Our shortlist is global – in their authors and their settings – which feels transporting in a year when so many of us have been confined to home.

“And our shortlist engages with matters of life and death, which feels quite poignant and pertinent in this catastrophic year.

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Education

Obi Vows To Stop ASUU Strikes If Elected President

Presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi has said that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) will not embark on industrial action if he is elected president.

Obi spoke at a campaign rally in Owerri, the Imo state capital city, on Tuesday.

The former governor of Anambra said the future of any serious country is dependent on education and health, adding that he would invest in the two sectors.

“If you make me your president and Datti my vice, ASUU won’t go on strike. We will dialogue with them.We will work with the student

“The future of any serious country is dependent on their education and health sectors. I will invest hugely in those sectors if you elect us”, he said.

 

 

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Education

“We Were Not Part Of Strike”, CONUA Vows To Sue F.G Over Withheld Salaries

Rival Academic union, Congress of University Academics has expressed its disappointment with the Federal Government, especially the Ministry of Labour and Employment, over the non-payment of its members’ withheld salaries “even when the government knew that the union did not call for strike action and its members were not involved in the strike action that lasted for eight months and which shut down the university system nationwide.”

In statement on Tuesday by its National President, Secretary and Publicity Secretary, Dr Niyi Sunmonu, Dr Henry Oripeloye and Dr Ernest Nwoke, respectively, CONIA  argued that it was wrong for the FG to lump CONUA with members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities who went on eight months strike between February and October, 2022.

The new union of lecturers thereby viewed to sue FG for withholding its members’ salaries.

The statement partly read, “CONUA formally made its non-involvement in the strike known to the Federal Government in a letter addressed to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, in April 2022.

“In the letter, we made it clear that because CONUA constituted a separate and independent union in the university system, our members did not call for any strike. This was followed by a Press Conference in Abuja on August 19, 2022 at which it was categorically stated that CONUA was not part of any ongoing strike, and that the “No Work No Pay” principle ought not to apply to members of the union.

“CONUA’s expectation is that, due to the express and categorical declaration, the government would seamlessly release our members’ outstanding salaries when it resumed the payment of salaries to all university staff in October 2022. But to our dismay, CONUA members were also paid pro-rata salaries in complete disregard to the fact that we were indeed shut out of duties by the strike.

“Subsequently, we wrote to the Accountant-General of the Federatıon and the Ministry of Labour and Employment reminding them that it was an error to lump our members with those that declared and embarked on strike action. It was yet another shock for the outstanding backlog of salaries not to have been paid to our members along with the November 2022 salary.”

CONUA said the non-payment of “our withheld salaries” contravenes Section 43 (1b) of the Trade Disputes Act CAP. T8, which stated that “where any employer locks out his workers, the workers shall be entitled to wages and any other applicable remunerations for the period of the lock-out and the period of the lock-out shall not prejudicially affect any rights of the workers being rights dependent on the continuity of period of employment.”

“This provision is consistent with global best practices,” it added.

“From the foregoing and as a law-abiding union that pledged to do things differently, we have resolved to seek legal redress of the illegal withholding of our legitimate salaries by taking the matter to court in consonance with the rights enshrined in our laws,” the union said.

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Education

Again, ASUU Berates FG Over “Half-Salary”

The Academic Union of Universities (ASUU) has again slammed the federal government over non-implementation of its demands.

ASUU has been at loggerheads with the government over its decision to pay members half of their salaries after the union’s eight-month strike ended.

The national executive council (NEC) of the union held a two-day meeting at the University of Calabar (UNICAL) in Cross River state to review the development and other issues affecting members.

The national president, Emmanuel Osodeke in a statement said ASUU faulted the federal government’s policies on education including the proposed introduction of education loans.

The union said such policies are indication that the government is not ready to fund public varsities.

“NEC observed with concern the systematic disengagement of government from funding of Public Universities through the proposed introduction of education loan which has proven to be a monumental failure in our nation and some other countries where it was introduced,” the statement reads.

“We find it troubling that the proponents of the policy are so eager to foist it down the throat of Nigerians when they have done more to push the working people of this country into poverty through sheer incompetence in handling the economic fortunes of our nation.

“ASUU calls on Nigerians of goodwill to, in the interest of our students and the nation, prevail on the Nigerian government to urgently address all outstanding issues contained in the December 2020 FGN-ASUU Memorandum of Action.

“NEC rejects with vehemence, the current attempts to impose master-slave treatment as a mechanism for relating with Nigerian scholars under whatever guise by the ruling class. ASUU members are citizens, not slaves.

“Finally, NEC appreciates the resilience of our members and their families. Their understanding and perseverance, in the face of hardship and provocation occasioned by the government’s intransigence and insensitivity shall be rewarded by posterity.”

On half salaries paid to members, ASUU said: “As reflected in the pro-rated salaries paid to our members for the month of October 2022, as well as the continued withholding of our member’s salaries for the preceding eight months, even when the backlog of the work is being covered by our members in various universities.”

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