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Nigerian author Chigozie Obioma, who studied English Literature at Cyprus International University, launched his new novel this week to international acclaim. The book, entitled The Fishermen, has already received glowing praise from prominent novelists and has been tipped as a potential prize-winner.

The Fishermen will be published in the UK and Australia, and has been translated into German. An American edition from leading publisher Little, Brown will follow in April this year, and translation rights have also been sold in France, Spain, Italy, Brazil, South Korea, Greece and the Netherlands.

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Obioma giving the CIU commencement speech in 2011

Aged 27, Obioma studied English Literature at Cyprus International University between 2007 and 2011 and graduated with the highest grade in his academic year. He also gave the the commencement speech at the 2011 congregation ceremony, in which he stated that he was ‘greatly indebted to this university’ and promised ‘to make good use of all he has obtained from here’.

The following year Obioma remained at CIU to study for an MA in English Literature at CIU, also working as a Research Assistant at the University, before continuing his education in the USA. He currently lives in America, where he won a scholarship to study Creative Writing at the University of Michigan.

His academic supervisor at CIU, Assist. Prof. Behbud Muhammedzade, described Obioma’s achievement as ‘a great success for the university’ and said that plans were being made for Obioma to return to CIU to speak to students.

The novel has been lavishly praised by a number of notable authors. The New Zealand novelist Eleanor Catton, who won the prestigious Man-Booker Prize for her novel The Luminaries, described Obioma’s novel as ‘a truly magnificent debut’, adding ‘few novels deserve to be called “mythic”, but Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen is certainly one of them’.

Alexandra Fuller, author of Don’t Let’s Go the Dogs Tonight, has compared Obioma’s writing to Tolstoy, stating, ‘Hardly anyone writing today is delivering this level of intricacy, lyricism and control.  Add to that, the urgency and importance of his message.  It just doesn’t get better than this.  Get used to the name: Obioma is here to stay.’

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International cover of The Fishermen

The novel is set in a small Nigerian town in the mid-1990s and tells a story about four brothers whose lives are riven by a sinister prophesy. Although the characters and setting are inspired by Obioma’s own childhood, the book derives from a short story which he wrote in Cyprus and published in the American Virginia Quarterly Review journal.

Chigozie Obioma has described himself as ‘a man who has grown on the fence of time like a wallflower, and who is now trying, hard, to dance amongst the rest of the brush, but who continues to fail, time and time again.’

The Fishermen is in bookshops now.