Recently in African novels and stories Category

Librarian Halidou reading Alain Mabanckou in Dohoun Library

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Halidou reading porc-epic in Dohoun.jpg

The book is Alain Mabanckou's Mémoires de porc-épic

Purple Hibiscus

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purplehibiscus.jpgI finally got to read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's first novel, Purple Hibiscus.  Definitely not for the younger child...a frightening, almost Gothic, tale of family dysfunction... the father, Eugene, is so repressed by inner-demons that he demands Christian perfection from his two children and wife, while struggling, as successful businessman and newspaper owner, against the collapsing Nigeria of military coups and riots.  The narrator, Kambili, is a nuanced and sensitive girl, coming of age, slowly realizing that the fear she experiences at home is not normal, but dreadfully wrong.  There are flaws in the novel: some of the adult characters are flat and/or overdrawn, and the ending is, well, somehow the novel had to end, so Adichie decided to end with a bang.  A great novel for the plane ride to Burkina Faso... or a set of evenings at home. 

Long way to go for libraries in Nigeria....

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From Sumaila Isah Umaisha,Literary Editor of New Nigerian Newspapers, Kaduna, Nigeria, and everythinliterature blogger, an interview with Wale Okediran ...

HON. WALE OKEDIRAN, the immediate past President of Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA, has just completed a fictional account of his tenure as a member of the Federal House of Representatives from 2004 to 2007. Titled Tenants of the House, it was originally conceived as a biography but had to be fictionalised in view of its very sensitive and potentially explosive contents. In this interview with Sumaila Umaisha, he discusses the book and its public presentation at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Lagos.

NNW: What is Tenants of the House all about?
Hon. Wale Okediran: It is a fictional account of my stay in the House of Representatives from 2004 to 2007. It traced the experience of the main character Hon. Samuel Bakura while in the National Assembly and depicted his challenges, frustrations and achievements as an idealistic young politician.

You stated in the press material that Tenants of the House is politically explosive. How will this explosiveness help heal Nigeria's checkered political experience?
The way it will help will depend on how people react to it.The writer's job is to write and not to prescribe. My aim is to sensitise the public about the challenges and frustrations of governing this country from the perspective of a former insider, albeit in a fictional way. The story will also let the public know that contrary to widely held belief, the problem in our governorship does not solely lie with the politicians, but also to some extent with some of the electorate who expect too much from their elected representatives, and by so doing, put them in difficult positions.

It is my hope that with this understanding, the electorate will be more vigilant in electing the right people into office and monitor them more closely while in office. In addition, more credible people will be willing to go into politics and increase the critical mass of those who want to change the country for good.
We however still have a long way to go in the area of Libraries which are still non existing in many parts of the country. One is looking forward to a situation where every Local Government Area in the country will have a functional library. It is not too much for philanthropists to also set up libraries.
Merd, why can't I be in Parisdbf18b5490.jpg... a whole weekend of African graphic noveling...

vendredi 5 février : la bande dessinée africaine : réalités et perspectives

Sous la coordination scientifique de Christophe Cassiau-Haurie, conservateur de bibliothèque, spécialiste de la BD du sud (Afrique, Océan indien, Caraïbes...) qui sera le modérateur de la journée.

introduction : état des lieux de la BD africaine par Christophe Cassiau-Haurie

intervenants :

  • Robert Wazi, éditeur de bandes dessinées
  • Alix Fuilu, auteur et éditeur (Afrobulles)
  • Serge Diantantu, auteur
  • Christophe Ngalle Edimo, scénariste
  • Sabri Kasbi auteur et enseignant
  • Jean-Louis Couturier, rédacteur en chef des revues Planète Jeunes et Planète Enfants (Bayard Presse) : revues diffusées en Afrique
  • Alain Brezault, journaliste, scénariste et écrivain
  • Joost Pollmann, et journaliste de BD au quotidien Volkskrant, commissaire de l'exposition Picha,

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimanada Adichie

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35 adichie.jpgI recently finished Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimanada Adichie.  Definitely the kind of sprawling saga that people of all reading levels enjoy.  The setting is the Biafran war for independence.  Easy to imagine the book becoming the basis for an "imagined community" and it is interesting to see how Adichie conjures the Igbo sense of imagined community before the war.  The poet plays a role; songs play a role; a bearded military man... but the Igbo nation is really tied together by an oral history of significant places and communities.  No novels shaped the community.  But I'm a natural-born critic, so rather than praise too much, I'll point out shortcomings.  I found many of the character overdrawn.  There.  That's it.  Good novel.  Overdrawn characters + potboiler.  Great for an airplane trip.

Of course, the real critics have their very interesting observations that make me wish I had pursued that line of work... "The nature of the Igbo traveling identity-its cosmopolitanism, transborder claims, and new metropolitan tropes-permits us therefore to fully comprehend the nature of Nigeria's contemporary cultural production as well as its implication or significance in shaping modern, postcolonial Nigerian identity and the direction of its narrative of the nation."  That from Nwakanma Obi, "Metonymic Eruptions : Igbo Novelists, the Narrative of the Nation, and New Developments in the Contemporary Nigerian Novel" Research in African literatures , 2008, vol. 39, no2, pp. 1-14.

"My characters drank ginger beer"

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Thanks to Kathie Sheldon for forwarding the link to this talk by Chimamanda Adichie:

Uwem Akpan story in The New Yorker

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He is definitely 'the bomb' in African literature.... his latest short story is perfect... a Catholic Priest goes on a Dante-ish "guided tour" of Lagos, deeper and deeper in the shit (bad language is used, and if a Jesuit priest can use words like shit, then so the heck can I, even though it still feels bad).  The whole story I am wondering where this is going, and then the classic short story twist at the end was absolutely brilliantly understated but perfect for an economist who studies Africa- I won't give it away (hint: Nathan Nunn and Leonard Wantchekon), but after spending several hours preparing my class on African Economic Development (which starts tomorrow) I found myself wondering why I don't just assign the story!

Anyway, for your amusement, Akpan mentions a song by Awilo Longomba, from Congo called Coupe Dibamba.  Not my preferred style in African music (though I like Kassav'), but definitely you can hear this blaring out of the boits de nuit de Ouagadougou!

Tsotsi by Athol Fugard

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tsotsi-by-athol-fugard.pngI found this on the library bookshelf and checked it out.  I'd never read anything by Fugard... for some reason (him being a playwright, and I not particularly enjoying the conventions of theater) I'd always thought of him as intimidating.  But the movie version I had seen, at FESPACO in Burkina actually, and it was a fantastic movie most of the way through, and so when I saw that Fugard was the author of the book I said to myself, "This has got to be even better than the movie."  And sure enough, much better.  A hard challenge for a writer: take a young man grown up a hardened street thug, put a baby accidentally in his hands one night, and record the "inner life" as it evolves with the facts of living in the world.  But isn't this the challenge that writers should be taking?  (Compare, e.g., with the challenges Tom Wolfe sets for himself...)  It is seriously depressing, but invigorating because of the sharp insight and the excellent writing.  The ending is completely different from the movie, and far better.

Buchi Emecheta: The New Tribe

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new tribe.jpgShe's a good writer, no doubt about it.  But this rather forced novel probably would have most appeal to teenagers who themselves have what we might call "Africa Identity Crisis"... that is, they grow up in U.S. or U.K. and no longer know what it means to be comfortable with identity as African.  True to her own life experience, Emecheta guides the reader away from simple resolutions: identity is more complicated than eating fufu, and the responsible thing to do is encourage, enable, but also question... so a great novel for a multicultural class in high school!

I found myself very immersed in the characters until mid-way through, when the sister disappears and Chester goes off to Nigeria... a trip the reader anticipates weith dread... it turns out as bad as one expected, but somehow there is no emotional cost to Chester or the reader... somehow Emecheta disengages the intensity- like I said, good for high school, but not compelling for the experienced reader.

More Nadine Gordimer...

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I am getting busy now that university is in full session, so only have time to read short novels... fun to go to the library and just look for thin books.   I can't say that this was a memorable book... Written during the 1960s.  Presumably at the time these and other books of Gordimer's caused a stir by the very unlikelihood of the subject matter: white South Africans going over to the ANC side.  The beauty is in the thickly layered psychology of the central character and her ex-husband, who commits suicide after a botched bombing etc.
late bourgeois world.jpg


Books, reading, and libraries relevant to Africa by Michael Kevane, co-Director of FAVL and economist at Santa Clara University.

Other contributors include Kate Parry, FAVL-East Africa director, FAVL Burkina Faso representative Koura Donkoui, FAVL Burkina Faso program manager Krystle Nanema, and FAVL friends Emilie Crofton and Elisee Sare.

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