Recently in African novels and stories Category

"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

Kehinde, by Buchi Emecheta

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Not a very complex novel, but gratifying nevertheless.  A sharp "coming of wisdom" story from 1994 about a Nigerian woman living in London, then returning to Nigeria, who gradually discovers herself.  Nicely drawn characters, and not overly moralizing.  

Why is there so little reading in Africa?

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I'll tell you why. I just went to order some copies of my colleague Alain Sissao's book, Contes du Pays Mossi, and it would cost 26 euros plus shipping to get in to Burkina Faso- total about $40.  This for a small paperback... albeit of delightful short folk tales translated from Moré into French.  But what reader is going to pay that much?  Sigh.

Who Controls African Literature?

FAVL friend Chelby Daigle send us this editorial by Tolu Ogunlesi:

LAGOS: The literary world is once again shining a spotlight on Africa. There are new prizes: the South Africa-based PEN Studzinski Literary Award for short stories, and the Penguin Prize for African Writing, a pan-African prize covering both fiction and non-fiction genres. There’s a new book series, the “Penguin African Writers Series,” which will include not only new books from emerging writers, but also classics taken over from the defunct Heinemann African Writers Series. And next year South Africa will be featured as the “Market Focus country” at the 2010 London Book Fair and African writing will be showcased at the Gothenburg Book Fair.

The African ‘Greats’–Ngugi, Soyinka, Gordimer, Okot p’Bitek– have given way to a new roster of names — Chimamanda Adichie, Chris Abani, Helon Habila, Binyavanga Wainaina, Sefi Atta, Monica Arac de Nyeko, Chika Unigwe, Brian Chikwava — who have become the new faces of contemporary African writing.

This explosion of literary talent and publishing opportunities might be likened to a similar one that accompanied the heady post-independence days of the 1960s. But in spite of all the inspiring and exciting happenings of recent years, there still remain nagging questions regarding who exactly are the proper ‘gatekeepers’ of African literary tradition and production.

Read the full article "Who Controls African Literature" here.
From publisher Ricochet-jeunes...
Fanta vit dans un village du Burkina-Faso avec sa grand-mère Mâ, tandis que sa mère Delphine garde des enfants blancs en France pour gagner un peu plus d’argent. Les deux femmes sont modernes au regard des autres habitants : elles refusent que la petite fille soit excisée, projettent pour elle des études… Mais Fanta, à qui on n’a pas demandé son avis, est un peu perdue.

A rebours des romans qui mettent d’habitude en scène des enfants immigrés en France, l’auteur a choisi de faire rester son héroïne dans son pays d’origine. Mieux, de le lui faire aimer, au point d’hésiter à partir vers l’Eldorado occidental ! Une attitude atypique, qui nous permet de pénétrer dans l’intimité d’une Afrique rurale à mi-chemin entre traditions et progrès. La vie quotidienne est dure, tendue vers l’autosuffisance avec le travail des champs. Le puits conserve une place centrale, qui possède une moto ou un téléphone portable est considéré comme riche. A côté de ce qui semble archaïque, la vie est aussi simple, socialement plus active. Les hommes se retrouvent pour boire un verre le soir, tandis que les enfants écoutent le conteur refaire le monde. Les fêtes durent plusieurs jours, la religion se partage sans heurts entre islam et animisme (voir les ancêtres crocodiles). Marie-Florence Ehret sait faire vivre ces aspects positifs, mais s’attaque sans complaisance à la réalité de la vie des femmes : d’abord l’excision, puis le mariage, enfin les enfants.

Une des tantes de Fanta n’a que quelques années de plus qu’elle, et la petite fille a peur de ne pas trouver d’époux quand sa grand-mère s’oppose à son excision. Cette décision choque d’ailleurs le reste du village, la vieille femme, revenue de la ville à la mort de son mari, n’est pas comme les autres. Fanta, si elle ne mesure pas sa chance à ce moment précis (elle regrette plutôt de ne pas avoir de robe neuve comme ses amies), sent bien le statut particulier accordé à sa famille ouverte sur le monde : mère exilée qui fait bouillir la marmite des oncles, sœur aînée partie étudier à la capitale.

African langugage books online....

Sent in by Kim Dionne :
More Swahili, Kikuyu, Dholuo
and other African Languages in Google Books via Official Google Africa
Blog by Julie on 7/21/09
En Français

We've always said that with Google Books we want to bring more books to
more people in more languages. Today we're truly delighted to announce
that we're making progress, and getting closer to making this true for
more users in Africa. In a partnership with the East African
Educational Publishers
(EAEP) we're working to bring more books in
African languages to our index. From Swahili, to Kikuyu, to Dholuo and
Acholi, but also including oral languages such as Mbeere and Maasai,
the thousands of titles published by EAEP will be digitized and indexed
on Google’s search engine and become available to users in Kenya and
around the world in the next several months.

Google Books helps users discover books. It exposes readers to
information they might not otherwise see, and it provides authors and
publishers with a new way to be found. We truly believe that Google
Books benefits anyone who reads, writes, publishes and sells books.
It's good news for people who read books because they can more easily
discover books that are of interest to them, and where to buy them; it
is good news for authors because it makes it easier for more people to
discover find their work; it is good news for publishers because they
can more easily reach a wider audience; it is good news for booksellers
because readers are directed to the bookshops where they can buy
interesting publications; and it is good news for libraries because it
means more people can discover the books on their shelves.

The EAEP is one of over 25 000 publishers worldwide, to join the Google
Books Publisher Program. Google Books has over 10 million books in the
index. It includes works in over a 100 languages, and is currently
available in 142 countries.

Posted by Santiago de la Mora, Head of Partnerships for Google Books in
Europe, the Middle East and Africa

FAVL Blog

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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