Zimbabwean literary editor to receive OBE from Queen

Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, a literary editor and publisher from Zimbabwe, will receive an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) from the Queen in recognition for her services to the publishing industry.

She joins a New Year honours list that includes England World Cup referee Howard Webb and ex-Eurythmics singer Annie Lennox. Allfrey, the daughter of Zimbabwean writer Pius Wakatama, is married to SW Radio Africa webmaster Richard Allfrey. At present she is the deputy editor of Granta Magazine, one of the most respected literary magazines in the United Kingdom. She has edited dozens of books including Harare North by Zimbabwean author Brian Chikwava and numerous others from British writers Bettany Hughes, Ian McEwan and Julian Barnes.

Speaking to SW Radio Africa on Monday, Allfrey said she first knew about the honour at the beginning of December last year when she was asked if she would accept it. At first she was unsure thinking it might have been a hoax and only told her husband and sister.

I purposely didnt tell my parents in case my father called a press conference, she said in jest.

Allfrey moved to the United Kingdom after finishing her university education in the United States and says the UK is more or less now her adopted country. She credits her father for her accomplishments because she grew up in a house full of books and where writing and a creative life was seen as something important. Allfrey said she was excited at the prospect of rubbing shoulders with one of her favourite singers, Annie Lennox, at the honours ceremony.

Allfrey certainly leads a busy life. In addition to her main job as an editor, she has helped organise literary festivals in Kenya, Nigeria and Zimbabwe, is on the board of the Writers Centre in Norwich and has made several contributions to the work of the British Council in different parts of the world. She made special mention for her husband for bearing with her busy schedule and its toll on family life.

I have to say Richard handed over a considerable number of cows as roora when we got married and in the last couple of years he hasnt had his moneys worth cause I dont cook very much and dont match his socks. So I think it (honour) is for him as well, Allfrey said.

Allfrey has been instrumental in bringing the work of African writers into the mainstream and gave credit to all the publishing houses that have allowed her to do this. She has managed to get works from the African Writers Series into the Penguin Modern Classics Series including greats like Kenyan Ng?g? wa Thiong’o and Zimbabwean Dambudzo Marachera.

The British honours system recognises people who have played a distinguished role in any field in their region or county and whose achievements are recognised nationally. NB: To listen to the full interview between Lance Guma and Ellah Wakatama Allfrey tune in to Behind the Headlines.

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  1. Cliff Ratzlaff Ph.D.

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