Helon Habila

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Helon Habila
Helon Habila 01.JPG
Helon Habila, Göteborg 2010
Born 1967
Kaltungo, Gombe State
Citizenship Nigerian
Alma mater University of Jos
University of East Anglia
Notable awards 2001 Caine Prize

Helon Habila Ngalabak (born 1967) is a Nigerian novelist and poet. He worked as a lecturer and journalist in Nigeria before moving to England to become the African Writing Fellow at the University of East Anglia. In 2002 he published his first novel, Waiting for an Angel. His writing has won many prizes including the Caine Prize in 2001. In 2005/2006 he became the Chinua Achebe Fellow at Bard College, NY.

In 2006 he co-edited the British Council anthology New Writing 14. His second novel, Measuring Time, was published in 2007.[1] His third novel, Oil on Water, which deals with environmental pollution in the oil-rich Nigerian Delta, was published in the US in 2011. His anthology The Granta Book of the African Short Story came out September 2011.

Habila studied at the University of Jos and at the University of East Anglia where he was a Chevening Scholar and now teaches creative writing at George Mason University, Washington D.C.[2][3][4]

Habila is a founding member and currently serves on the advisory board of African Writers Trust,[5] "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."[6][7]

Early Inspiration for writing[edit]

Growing up in a period of political disfunction and military dictatorships, Helon 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, Helon 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.

Cordite Publishing company[edit]

Cordite books is a relatively new publishing company jointly owned by Helon Habila and Parrésia publishing. Their first project was last year when they made a call out to writers across the continent to submit quality crime manuscripts with the best receiving US$1,000 and publishing deal with distribution across the continent.[8]

In his early days, Helon Habila grew up reading Nigerian books in Hausa and then the Pacesetters series, which was a 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 always been a recurring scene in his life.[9]

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-fictional, religuous or motivational books. There was hardly any middle ground for entertainment books and that is where Cordite books fills the gap for fictional crime books.[10]

Awards and honors[edit]


Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Giles Foden, Review: "The power of two", The Guardian, 10 February 2007.
  2. ^ "Directory of Chevening Alumni". Chevening UK Government Scholarships. 24 August 2014. 
  3. ^ International Herald Tribune
  4. ^ "Helon Habila: In search of Africa's angels", The Independent, 9 February 2007.
  5. ^ "Advisory Board". African Writers Trust. Retrieved August 24, 2011 from
  6. ^ "What is African Writers Trust?" African Writers Trust. Retrieved 24 August 2011.
  7. ^ Lamwaka, Beatrice, "Goretti Kyomuhendo of African Writers Trust", Afrolit, 22 May 2011. Retrieved 24 August 2011.
  8. ^ "Zimbabwe's Blessing Musariri wins Crime Fiction Contest - James Murua's Literature Blog". James Murua's Literature Blog. 2014-09-08. Retrieved 2016-06-23. 
  9. ^ "Nigerian Author Helon Habila". Ayiba Magazine. 2014-09-02. Retrieved 2016-06-23. 
  10. ^ "Nigerian Author Helon Habila". Ayiba Magazine. 2014-09-02. Retrieved 2016-06-23. 
  11. ^ "Prize Citation for Helon Habila". Windham–Campbell Literature Prize. February 24, 2015. Retrieved February 25, 2015. 

External links[edit]