Mozambican author Mia Couto wins the 2020 Jan Michalski Prize for Literature

Couto will also receive a work of art specially chosen for him. Keystone / Quique Garcia

Couto’s ‘Sands of the Emperor’ trilogy has won him the Swiss literary prize worth CHF50,000 ($56,382). 

This content was published on December 10, 2020 - 16:46

The jury’s decision to honour the writer was announced on Wednesday. The ‘Sands of the Emperor’ trilogy (As areias do imperador in the original Portuguese) is set in war-torn Mozambique at the end of the 19th century. The trilogy includes Woman of the Ashes, The Sword and the Spear and The Drinker of Horizons

The jury praised Couto – born in 1955 – for the exceptional quality of his writing and for “portraying with great empathy characters faced with the inhumanity of war, offering them an epic inspiration out of the lush natural world of Africa”.  

A descendant of Portuguese immigrants to Mozambique, the author joined the anti-colonial movement Mozambique Liberation front (FRELIMO). After the country’s independence from Portugal in 1975, Couto worked as a journalist before becoming a writer and biologist teaching at the University of Maputo.  

Translated into over thirty languages, his texts have been awarded various prizes, including the 2013 Camões Prize and the 2014 Neustadt Prize. 

The Jan Michalski Prize is awarded by the Jan Michalski Foundation for Writing and Literature founded in 2004 in Montricher at the foot of the Jura Mountains in Switzerland. Besides the prize money, winners get a work of art specifically chosen for them. Couto will receive a pair of wooden sculptures by the Nigerian artist Alimi Adewale. 

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