- Created: 17 February 2014
Poet and prose fiction writer, Helon Habila, graduated from the University of Jos in 1995 where he read Literature. He lectured in English for two years at the Federal Polytechnic, Bauchi, before turning to journalism in 1999, first writing stories of love and intrigue for a romance magazine called Hints. He was the literary editor for Vanguard Newspaper in Lagos when he won two of the country's biggest awards - the MUSON (Musical Society of Nigeria) Poetry Prize for his poem, Another Age , and the Liberty Bank Prize for his short story The Butterfly and the Artist in 2000.
Habila's short story Love Poems won him the coveted Caine Prize for African Writing in 2001.Love Poems is about a poet detained in jail, whose poetry is falsely claimed by the jailer as his own. Helon Habila's powerful debut novel, Waiting for an Angel, charts the experiences of a young journalist, Lomba, living under military rule in Lagos . The title refers to a man in a Lagos bar defying the curfew after martial music on the radio has signalled a coup, in effect awaiting his own death. It could equally suggest the writer, and his society waiting for salvation. In the novel, the journalist, Lomba, is warned by a colleague that, even if he finishes the novel he is writing in longhand by candlelight in a Lagos slum, no one will publish it. “Here in this country our dreams are never realised,” says Lomba. “Someone always contrives to turn them into a nightmare.”
Waiting for an Angel, written in similar circumstances and focused partly on the predicament of writers in a country such as Nigeria, faced that oblivion. But Helon Habila's novel won the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Book, African Region, in 2003, and he has a new novel,Measuring Time, due for publication in 2005. Helon Habila is currently the African Writing Fellow at the University of East Anglia in the UK, where he lives with his wife and daughter.
Waiting for an Angel, Penguin Books, 2002