Thursday, December 31, 2009

Good Things Are Happening to African Literature

Sefi Atta’s novel, Everything Good Will Come, I think, is a prophecy of better days ahead and an exhortation on all Africans to look beyond the overwhelming negative news headlines and the lamentations that come with them. With persistence, moral vision and hard work, everything good will come.

The past few years have witnessed an unprecedented blossoming of African literature, a renaissance that many believe has come to stay. The major reason this will be a permanent feature in the African intellectual world is that, unlike the renaissance of the African writing in the 50sand 60s, this one is not born of a reaction directed at the historical oppressor. Indeed, it is not a reaction; it is a square human response to the experience of existential pain, a sort of wisdom that Aeschylus talks about in his Agamemnon. “Wisdom comes through suffering. Trouble, with its memories of pain, drips in our hearts as we try to sleep, so men against their will learn to practice moderation.”

African literature has experienced lots of favors from the Muses, and from what I’m hearing through the grapevine, there are still more things to come. While we have just one calendar year to round off this first decade of our century, we’d like to take note of some important events that have given me reasons to rejoice. I do this with apologies to names that are likely to be left out owing to my ignorance of their impact.

I hardly say this about a country or a people, but I have to admit that I’m beginning to believe that there’s something unique about Zimbabwe. The air they breathe? The water they drink? Their languages? Whatever, there’s something in that country that makes its people undyingly creative. Students of African intellectual history can hardly ignore the influence of Zimbabwean writers like Marechera, Vera, Hove, Chinodya, Dangarembga on the African literary discourses of the 80s and 90s. This year alone three important books emerged from the country, thus keeping the Promethean spark alive: Brian Chikwava, Harare North, Petina Gappah, An Elegy for the Easterly and Irene Sabatini, The Boy Next Door. Did I forget Sarah Oladipo Manyika’s novel, In Dependence? Besides these novelists, there are many writers who not only write but also promote and review other writers: Ivor Hartman of StoryTime, Emmanuel Sigauke of Wealth of Ideas, Jane Morris of amaBooks.

South Africa is Africa’s literary powerhouse per se; it is literally a world of its own, providing nearly innumerable avenues for its writers. See for example this: There are numerous instances of literary good news to choose from. For this write-up though, I would like to mention two exciting names that came to our notice in the past years: Henrietta Rose-Innes, the 2008 Caine Prize and HSBC/SA PEN Literary Award winner. Mary Watson, the winner of 2006 Caine Prize.

From Kenya, Kwani continues to discover and nurture amazing literary talents. Kudos to Binyavanga Wainana and his coeditors and literary conference organizers? Recently, Mukoma wa Ngugi published a novel, Nairobi Heat that is receiving a heated reviews everywhere.
With this year’s winner of the Caine Prize, EC Osundu, Nigeria wrapped up a year of great harvest, a year that saw Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie win the McArthur Fellowship, Chris Abani, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Award. And of course, Sefi Atta saw the prophecy of her book fulfilled in her winning the Noma Award for publishing in Africa. Not to be forgotten is the ultimate shebang of it all, Uwem Akpan making it onto Oprah book club. Say You’re One of Them has now spent more than fourteen weeks on New York Times bestseller list. This is, to my knowledge, the only African writer to achieve this feat. Nigeria also boasts of lesser known writers, who have made themselves known to important reviewers: Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, Lola Shoneyin, Tolu Ogunlesi, Jude Dibia, Tade Ipadeola, etc.

Besides these writers of muscular stature, what pleases me infinitely as a Nigerian is the emergence of two robust publishers, Kachifo Limited and Cassava Republic. They appear determined to not only publish the writers already known to the West, but also discover and promote new writers in Africa.

Readings, conferences, retreats, prizes of note: Abuja Literature Festival, Baobab Prize, Writing Kenya.
Literary magazines and blogs of note: African Writing, Saraba Magazine, Kwani, Sentinel Literary Quarterly, Naija blog, Petina Gappah, Wealth of Ideas, StoryTime, Bookaholic, Cassava Republic blog
Reviewers of Note: Ikhide Ikheloa: He has a fine way of burning a book into your consciousness. Which is what all great reviewers do. You might agree or disagree with his observations, but you do so while holding the book in your hand. In that way a discourse takes place. I bet, he will one day be known as the great midwife of modern African literature. May whatever he worships keep him alive and happy for the next several decades. Isee!
Emmanuel Sigauke: If he is not yet popular among the lovers of African literature, it is perhaps because he does more reviews of international literature than African. Anyhow, whenever he takes up and dissects an African book, it’s a pleasure to read him.

We look forward to a very fruitful 2010, a year that should be rich in controversies, discourses, noises, births, births, and more births. Be well, friends.
Chielo Zona Eze.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Troubling Authenticity

Teju Cole trains his critical guns on what he calls the Controversialists' assessment of Petina Gappah's statement about being an African writer. Here he goes:
"Accepting this year's Guardian First Book award, the short-story writer Petina Gappah said, "I don't see myself as an African writer." Controversialists zoned in on the statement like so many heedless flies towards a honey jar. But there was a context that was being ignored. Gappah's book, "An Elegy for Easterly," had initially been published with a press release describing her as the "voice of Zimbabwe." Gappah objected to the term, but the copy was already out."
Teju has interesting arguments in defense of Petina. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Interview - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie grew up in Nigeria and says it was only when she went to America to study at the age of 19 that she became aware of the labels black and African.

She talks to Carrie Gracie about how she has tackled the problems caused by race, gender politics and her country's colonial history, and how she thinks her generation can turn Nigeria around.

A fine art of self-promotion

This is an activity in a small act or art of self-promotion. Not entirely bad, after all. Well, I just found this fine review of my book, The Trial of Robert Mugabe.
Here is a taste of what the writer is saying:
"The plot is aptly interwoven into various subplots which are catalogues of the various episodes of the transgressions against human rights by the Mugabe regime against the Zimbabwean populace. The writer employs a subtle literary technique which mixes satire, caricature, mystery and suspense to create a gripping tale which keeps the reader engrossed till the end."
Not bad, friends.
I can't seem to establish a link to this damn article. Anyway, here's the homepage. Hope you find some luck.
Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How to Make the Mind Matter in Nigeria

I thought you might want to read this little piece of mine. If you are rich-and I pray that you are-consider sponsoring some of the ideas expressed in that article.
It's about developing a sound intellectual culture in my dear home country, Nigeria, a place where my soul resides.
Anyway, before I'm carried away by some unclassifiable emotion, I urge you to read the piece and judge.
Here now is the correct LINK!

Chika Unigwe on the Streets of Antwerp

Another scoop on one of the amazing literary stories from the continent.

"A proud African, Unigwe adds to the debate about the name tag that limits writers born in Africa as merely “African writers.” “I’m African, and I never question my African identity,” says Unigwe. “What I question sometimes are the expectations that come with being labeled an “African writer.” What you are supposed to write, how you are supposed to write and so on. But then that is the problem with labeling; it comes with a whole box of expectations, usually people’s projections of what the label ought to cover. It’s not always right or accurate.”"
Enjoy the rest of the story:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Between Kan and Cole... revisiting Lagos, Nigerian writers' most re-imagined city

Anote Ajeluorou is a vibrant and tireless literary journalist. Now you see his name in Nigerian Guardian, the next time you read his excellent article elsewhere, like this one, in Nigerian Daily News. In this fine resume of the literary activities organized by one of the really good Nigerian publishers, Cassava Republic, Anote draws our attention, among other issues, to the importance of Lagos in Nigeria's literary imagination. Here he goes:
"It was Jeremy Weate, co-founder of Cassava Republic, who, while moderating the reading session, raised the searching questions about how faithful and encompassing writers have fared in capturing the entirety of nuances of Lagos life. While Kan believes Lagos is not under-written, Cole disagrees. Kan thinks since fiction started in Nigeria, Lagos has featured prominently in the works such writers like Ekwensi, Soyinka and Achebe and the other younger writers that followed over the years."
Enjoy the rest of the article here.

Monday, December 21, 2009

You won't progress until you return to your language

Ngugi wa Thiong'o is not the only one harping on the importance of the native language of a writer in his/her writing. Prof Chukuezi is not only a medical doctor, he is also a writer. Indeed, he acknowledges that before becoming a medical doctor he was a writer. He has some dire warning for all writers. Every creative thinker essentially does so in his or her native language. I think he is right in many ways. Anyway, read his words: ENJOY!

Pambazuka on Petina Gappah

This is the Pambazuka version of my little piece on the controversy of the term, African writer.
I thought they did an excellent editorial job. Thanks guys.
"Petina Gappah isn’t betraying her roots by objecting to ‘being labelled the voice of Zimbabwe’, Chielo Zona Eze writes in this week’s Pambazuka News, she just doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed into the ‘transcendental role of saving the African, by telling his or her story’.

Friday, December 18, 2009

2009... Year of the Nigerian short story

Anote Ajeluorou has a great assessment of Nigerian writing in the short story genre. Great review, I would sag:
"Over the years Nigerian writers have latched on the short story format as a significant medium to express their creative ingenuity, however, no other year has this genre occupied a central place than in 2009.
Of course, the short story format has been exploited by Nigerian writers over the years with amazing results."
Read the rest of the article here.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Is Petina Gappah Ashamed of Being an African Writer?

In her first interview after winning the Guardian First Book Prize, Petina Gappah vehemently objected to her being labeled the voice of Zimbabwe. Rightly, so, one would say, for she is just a voice, a very confident one for that. She is a voice that, like others before her such as Yvonne Vera, Marechera, Tsitsi Dangarembga, addressed the human condition from a given position (at least for now), Zimbabwe. All literature is local.

Since her interview, various internet discussion groups have devoted considerable attention to what is perceived by some as a betrayal of her African roots. The title of her interview, “Petina Gappah: ‘I don't see myself as an African writer,” is provocative enough to make one ask whether she has contracted Michael Jackson’s “yellow” fever. Is it possible to create art that is not rooted in some place? Is she merely a copycat of her famous dead compatriot, Dambudzo Marechera?

Not so fast, friends. I think we are witnessing the birth of a robust thinker, a kind of Nietzschean philosopher with a hammer. Prove me wrong.

To start with, it is abundantly peculiar even to a troubling degree, that only African writers appear to be burdened with the seemingly annoying issue of identity, with the question of whether they are writers from, of, and for the continent. As one writer in my internet discussion group, coming to Gappah’s defense, said, you don’t ask water whether it is wet, do you? Yet, the writer rightly pointed out the tricky issue of identity. Thank God, identity is not as settled as the wetness of water.

It has to be born in mind that the issue of the African writer is fraught with contested meaning. If other writers from other continents do not face the same niggling problem–which I doubt–it might have to do with many factors one of which is that writing in Africa, literature as belles-lettres, has been closely associated with liberation struggle and the definition of self. Chinua Achebe gave this type of writing a definitive form not only with Things Fall Apart, but also, and indeed more robustly, his subsequent essays and interviews and interpretation of his own book. Thus, since the publication of that epochal book, African literature has largely been seen as a mode of writing-back, fighting the West’s misrepresentation of the African image. To be sure, Achebe cannot be identified with the Negritude movement, but his project is not far removed from Negritude’s redefinition of the maligned image of the African. The subtle different might lie in the Senghor’s lionization of the past and Africa’s perceived essence.

This century has witnessed a robust renaissance of the African literature, thanks in large part to Caine Prize. This rebirth boasts of such fine writers like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Chris Abani, Sefi Atta, Brian Chikwava, Helon Habila, Chika Unigwe, and of course Petina Gappah. Reading their works, one discerns their allegiance to, or the influence of, what could be termed, for lack of proper terms, the Achebean and Soyinkan schools of thought. The Achebean school sees its role as primarily redefining the African. It does this among other things, by challenging the West’s “single story.” The Soyinkan, is of course different from the first in the sense that it appears to ignore the gaze of the white man, and explores the human condition as it is found in the African households, villages and towns. It does not even shy away from employing Western concepts and idioms to elucidate African native ideas. Doing so, simply telling normal stories of normal people, is understood as engaging in a deeply universal exercise.

Among the new crop of African writers, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie unapologetically positions herself as the torchbearer of the Achebean tradition. This is evident in her writings and speeches, the most renowned of which is “The Danger of a Single Story.” Chris Abani and Sefi Atta appear, at least temperamentally, to have sided with Soyinka, caring little about the burden of meeting the gaze of the white man. Put Gappah in this group. She seems to be interested in just being, telling stories, indeed, confronting life rather than in defining herself.

When Petina Gappah says that she doesn’t see herself as an African writer, it is important to note that she never denied being African, or black. Nor does she contest her being Zimbabwean. She, I think, avoids being holed in a given, transcendental role of saving the African, or a perceived essence, by telling the authentic African story.

Perhaps one day the term “African writer’ will lose its Achebean stamp when it becomes obvious that writings from that continent will be read also for their aesthetic wealth and not for their apology. The day has actually arrived, and reading Petina Gappah’s short stories, you feel as aesthetically fulfilled and as morally confronted as you would ever be. Hopefully, her little controversy goes a long way to instruct interviewers and commentators of African literature that the question of who is an African writer is as redundant as the medieval problem of wanting to know how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, or to use a better example, setting up a symposium to determine whether Ian McEwan is European.

Chielo Zona Eze teaches Postcolonial African literature and theory at Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago. He is the author of The Trial of Robert Mugabe

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What is Illuminating about Adichie’s ‘The Danger of a Single Story’?

You have always wanted to know what I'm loving about the new African literature? The discourse is getting more complex, more nuanced, more critical. People's voices are becoming more pronounced, stronger and more individual. Did you know that Petina Gappah has launched an all-out war against the sentimental hogwash about authentic African writing and African writers? Param pam pam paaaa.. I'm loving it.
Her's an interesting essay by Nnorom Azuonye on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's critique of the Western single story of Africa:
"She went on and on and on with one example after another of this thing she called a Single Story that I suddenly stopped the playback and asked myself; is Chimamanda’s theory of a Single Story a rechristening of Stereotyping, of Branding, of Methodising, of Pigeonholing, of Typecasting, etc? It appeared so"
Enjoy the rest of the essay.

Dogs of war still prowl

Chenjerai Hove is one of Zimbabwean writers I admire so much. I just reread his Sheeben Tales. Sweet. He believes it's not yet time for him to get back to Zimbabwe. Why go when your life could be stamped out like I used to do to some stubborn ants as a child.
Anyway, here is a taste of this nice article about him and other diasporan Zims. "Some people think Zimbabweans are on the cowardly side when they employ what I call survival strategies. Faced with extreme danger to their person, Zimbabweans use two major approaches: run away or fall silent. So, the diasporans took the first option, to escape "to live to fight another day", as Bob Marley says."

Monday, December 14, 2009

After the Storm: NLNG Poetry Prize’s Report and Matters Arising

Sorry, friends, I nearly missed this one. E.E.Sule is one of the few African literature professors whose opinions I take seriously. He has many interesting things to say about the latest literary award fiasco in Nigeria, the so-called NLNG Literary award. Mind you, this award hands a whopping $50.000 dollars to the winner. Good Lawd! But like all things Nigeria - I should actually say most things Nigeria- the prize has never been taken seriously. The latest attempt was fumbled.
Anyway, here is what E.E. Sule has to say:"the panel of judges had earlier released a long list of nine, with the promise that a shortlist would follow, but the shortlist, eagerly awaited, never came. Though it seemed unusual for some, the generality of contemporary literary minds in Nigeria waited fervently for the winner."
Please read the whole thing HERE. Beautiful, powerful analysis.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

On Black Sisters' Street

Ikhide Ikheloa strikes again. Look at this: "Every character in this book is driven by a deep hunger. Perhaps the monotony of yearning is the story of a Nigeria gradually turning soulless from material lust. In the process, we have learnt to hate ourselves. Energy seems reserved for mimicking the otherness that resides in the West. Unigwe’s book showcases Nigeria as a nation of people deeply invested in acquiring the trappings of an otherness that emanates from the West."

Beautiful, balanced review. It must be to Chika's credit that she created characters driven, as you put it, by "a deep hunger" or like most of us here in Obodo Oyibo, by a deep pain, cut off from the natal source of our being; here prostituting our talents rather cheaply. This is where I locate the beauty and relevance of Chika's work. I am happy she is ever ready to address the "open sore" of our continent out of the abiding love she has for it. This is our story, unapologetically ours, and we are happy she tells it without flinching.

By the way, isn't she an enenebe eje olu? - Admire and you won't go to work to day. ENJOY

Friday, December 4, 2009

Petina Gappah: 'I don't see myself as an African writer'

Petina Gappah, the newly minted winner of the Guardian First Book Award, objects to being labeled an African writer. Interesting to read her defense. She might have some points. On the other hand, what is wrong in being an African, Zimbabwean, Shona writer? Does being an African writer mean writing for Africa?
Anyway hear Petina in her own words:
"It's very troubling to me because writing of a place is not the same as writing for a place," she says. "If I write about Zimbabwe, it's not the same as writing for Zimbabwe or for Zimbabweans. I have to remember that as much as there are many people unhappy with Robert Mugabe's regime, there are many who are not: about 49% [of the electorate] voted for him." Read on.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Petina Gappah's An Elegy for Easterly wins Guardian First Book Award 2009

It's now official, what many of us have rightly anticipated. Petina Gappah has won a major literary prize for her collection, An Elegy for Easterly.
"A Geneva-based international trade lawyer whose poignant, humane and funny collection of stories about her home country, Zimbabwe, has impressed critics was tonight named winner of the Guardian First Book Award."
Good Luck, Petina. Many more are on your way.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The new black celebrity authors

Hei, have you read this? I find it oddly interesting. Sandile Memela is a senior marketing manager for the Department of Arts & Culture in South Africa. He seems to be of the opinion that all criticism of black experience amounts to a betrayal. Hmmm! He seems to be particularly offended by Zakes Mda's writing especially his latest novel,Black Diamonds. I like Zakes Mda. Surely I was frustrated by his Heart of Redness (too historical, postmodernist), depressed by The Whale Caller (an experiment in arts for arts sake - you can't get me interested in a man having an imaginary sex with a whale - give me a break), but, friends, his Ways of Dying is just brilliant. It's one of the best ten books written by Africans in the past fifty years.
Anyway, here is what Sandile Memela has to say. ENJOY!

The Education of a British-Protected Child - Charles Larson

CHARLES R. LARSON. This name sounds familiar, right? Those of us with a minimal knowledge of the history of the reception of Things Fall Apart will not easily forget Larson. Yes, his sharp criticism of the novel helped shape the discourse that would emerge in the course of the past 50 years. Now, the same Larson is again one of the first few to take on Achebe's latest offering: The Education of a British-Protected Child. Oh, he likes the book. SEE WHY!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

There is no such thing as pure African culture

Have you read Doreen Baingana's Tropical Fish? I read it once and then twice, and then fell for Doreen. She's good. What got me is the rugged philosophy and worldview she carefully articulates in each story. In an interview granted to Jerry Adesewo, she articulates parts of her philosophy that caught my attention. She's good. Anyway, read the interview and see what I mean. ENJOY!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Trusting Your Narrator

This is one small step for writing, but a giant leap for aesthetics. Knowing that there is a difference between you, the author, and the "puppet" you have created to tell your stories, the narrator. That can help you take the necessary distance between you and what you have created, your ideas.
Thanks, Emmanuel. ENJOY!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Sisters on the edge

Aderinsola Ajao does a good review of Chika Unigwe's novel, On Black Sisters' Street, and comes with this verdict: "On Black Sisters' Street is a worthwhile read. The memory of it stays with the reader and the question "What if?", whenever we remember Sisi or any of the other girls is one we cannot answer, but wish we could.
Life and the burden of memory linger and hound in this novel."
As of today the novel is not yet featured on Amazon US. I'll inform you when it is the case. Anyway, enjoy the review.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Chinua Achebe: Too Dangerous For Absence

Sonala Olumhense does an excellent, entertaining review of Chinua Achebe's latest offering. I love this review. Great, great job.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

How Not to Write a Novel

Niyi Ige reviews T.M. Aluko's novel, Our Born Again President, and suggests that it is a perfect example of how not to conceive of a novel.
A sample of Niyi's judgment:
"There are far too many clichés and the characters are one dimensional. The narrator, Steven - a top civil servant and principal secretary to both Sir Angus and latterly, David Tanbata, - permits us to view the transformation of David Tanbata at close quarters but provides little in the way of insight or complexity. It is all too predictable and that is sad because the plot might have had greater possibilities than what T.M Aluko has bequeathed us; and the characters certainly might have been better realised. He has settled for a rather basic morality tale and the book is all the poorer for it."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Waiting is the Worst Part

In the absence of any serious Africa-centered literature news, I thought you might like to read this.
"When JACOB WONDERBAR went out to editors I really thought I was going to be completely cool about the submission process. I'm an agent! I've seen this before! I've sold projects that were out on submission for six months and even a year! How hard could it be?
So. Being a Big Bad Experienced Agent, how long did it take me to crack?"

And by the way, the author of this article, Nathan Bransford, is a literary agent. ENJOY

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What writers should know about the publishing process

This is for writers among us, for those who have laboriously penned down their ideas and believed that the outcome would knock people off their feet. You get the first rejection letter, you fume and curse and realize that the world is just unfair. If you have a partner you'd want to hear from him/her that you're still a genius. But are you? Anyway, after about a week, you shrug off the disappointment and begin to write again and again and again. Well, friends, I'm sure your efforts will see the light of day sometime. Meanwhile this is a good piece of advice for you, by Louis Greenberg of. ENJOY!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ugandan official: cane dead bodies as example to the living

I thought this is just beautiful. I'm looking for ways to incorporate it in my fiction:
Ugandans punish the dead, yes, the dead, I mean dead bodies in order to teach the living some lessons. This is cool. My Jesuit professor in Innsbruck used to say this: Ex Africa Semper Aliquid Novi.
Okay, read this and tell me why I shouldn't laugh off my dear head.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

How to Compose a Poem with your garment

I thought you might like to read this. It's all about African forms of writing! Writing? you would ask. Yes, it is, and it's also pure poetry for it's something made to provide pleasure (remember the Greek origin of poetry, poesis). Okay, these designers have a unique way of saying something with their clothes they put out there, and of course, these beautiful ladies make my heart flatter and patter and chatter and clatter! Lawd have mussy!
Here's the essay that might make you smile a bit and perhaps write a poem or two. I love the title by the way: Kangalicious! ENJOY!

Friday, November 13, 2009

You can run, but you can't hide

A few days ago, Chinua Achebe denied that he was the father of African literature. But just as he was about to relax, thinking that he has put to rest this whole troubling issue of who fathered African literature, Emmanuel Sigauka called him out on the very issue. "Ha, ha ha," Emmanuel said. "Sir, you can run, but you can't hide. You, are the father of African literature and upon this rock, I build my ..."
Well, please see how Sigauke crafted his powerful, really convincing essay even if I am a bit of a different opinion. Another thing to love about Sigauke's essay is his ample reference to many important works in African literature, works that every educated African should have read.(If not, please - - I whisper it - - go and read these works).
Okay, as I was saying before the rambler in me took over, ..., well, here is Siguake's powerful essay. ENJOY!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

You Think You Can Blog?

One of the few voices that modern African literature owes its vibrancy to, Emmanuel Sigauke, invites guest bloggers to write for his popular blog, Wealth of Ideas. You can write about anything pertaining to literature, he says: Reviews, bios, gossips, conjectures, indeed anything. Okay, it's better to hear from the horse's (my goodness, this expression is too English, horses don't speak), okay hear from the popular blogger and reviewer's mouth.

Achebe rejects endorsement as 'father of modern African literature'

Is Achebe the father of Modern African literature? Achebe himself doesn't think so.

"The author of the multi-million bestseller Things Fall Apart, Achebe was given the label by Nadine Gordimer as he was awarded the Man Booker International prize two years ago; it has been frequently used both before and since. But the author said yesterday that he "resisted that very, very strongly"."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Nairobi Heat - Mukoma wa Ngugi

Announcing the arrival of a freshly minted book by a promising African writer, Mukoma wa Ngugi. The book is called Nairobi Heat. It is not yet yet ready for boarding in the US. So, bros and sis, hold your boarding cards ready.
Did I say that Mukoma is the/a son of Ngugi wa Thiong'o? Nuff said! The apple can't fall far from the tree, can it?
Here's the scoop!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The lost promise of outrage

One day, when the story of the renaissance of African literature is written, it will probably begin like this: There is Caine Prize, there is Adichie, there's Chris Abani, Helon Habila, Petina Gappah, Sefi Atta - have I missed your favorite, ah, Chikwava, Uwem Akpan and many more.
That day the story of our literature will be written, the first page, or at least the second, will surely contain words like these: Ikhide Ikheloa was a midwife, an excellent midwife, who sometimes pinched the pregnant woman to push harder, pricked the child to cry. Cry, baby, cry. Here, he has perfected the fine art of prodding, urging and shepherding of artists to realize their promises (no pun intended). A beautiful review of Ogochukwu Promise's Outrage.
Here's one of the many beautiful paragraphs:
"Art imitates life’s reality. The frustration with all of this is that there is a beautiful story in Outrage. In the indisciplined hands of vanity printing, the result is a tedious disaster. It is a rich but inchoate tale told by a talented storyteller whose voice has been garroted by communal mediocrity largely beyond her control."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

We are sailing

Mukoma wa Ngugi's novel, Nairobi Heat, has just been published by Penguin. Mukoma has just published an essay that many image-conscious Africans will surely frown at. Oh, well, it appears he has some true words to say aloud:

"Kenya is a country that has the dubious distinction of having the largest slum in Africa, one so famous that it has become a tourist attraction. Life is cheap. People die all the time – from car thieves, shoot-outs between the police and bank robbers, extra-judicial killings, car accidents, not to mention diseases such as AIDS, malaria and even typhoid. Child kidnappings, for ransom, are on the rise. And for $100 you can have someone assassinated."

Do you know that Mukoma is Ngugi wa Thiong'o's son. Thank God there is this disparity between these generations. Please read this essay.
If you're a writer it might help redirect your trajectory. If you are a potential leader, this might get you to think of what you'd do to right the African ship spinning around itself out there in the ocean. ENJOY!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Strange Passages To Harare North [Book Review]

A review of the Zimbabwean writer, Brian Chikwava's novel, Passages to Harrare North, by Ikhide Ikheloa. Ikheloa is one of the few reviewers out there who keep African literature alive. Sometimes, though, he sparks controversy here and there. Perhaps rightly so. This particular review has already. Some love it, some hate it, some would even like to punch the reviewer in the, in the, ... where-it-pains-a-man-most. I would like you, dear reader, to read the whole review and judge for yourself. This is how it begins:

"There is this thing called the Caine Prize for African Literature, whatever that means. People compete for it and someone invariably wins. There is a lot of noise making and jollification for a deserved win and the poor winner is expected to write a book. The poor fellow always obliges and dutifully produces a thoroughly wretched book. It hardly ever fails. There have been notable exceptions but one would argue that the writer wrote a good book despite winning the Caine Prize. One such wretched book is Harare North, written by the brilliant, perhaps gifted Brian Chikwava. He is destined to write a good book - once he finds his voice. It is just that right now, his toes are flirting with crickets while Africa is carrying elephants on her head. There are few books that have frustrated me more than Harare North. It is like staring in anger at a rich pot of soup ruined by an impish but talented cook."


Monday, November 2, 2009

Black woman wins Prix Goncourt for the first time

Who says Africa has not yet arrived on the world scene? In literature, sure, we have. And much more is coming. We have powerful names like Petina Gappah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Seffi Atta, Chris Abani and many others whose works are enjoyed all over the world for their sheer aesthetic quality, and of course, their content. Now, the Senegalese writer, Marie NDiaye, has fired her own shot from France. She has won the prestigious Prix Goncourt, the 106 year French literary prize. Here's the story. ENJOY!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Nigerian Sefi Atta Wins the 2009 Noma Award

Before Caine Prize there was Noma Award for publishing in Africa. Noma what? You might say. Oh, yes, Noma Award, right in the heart of Africa. Remember, it was this award that gave us Mariama Ba of te So Long a Letter! Yes, Sefi Atta has won just that prize. Great things keep on coming together for this great writer; they trickle in. Like good wine. I mean palm wine! ENJOY

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Swamp Full Of Hyenas [Book Review]

Ikhide Ikheloa is one of the good, really good reviewers out there. Those who are used to my other blog, Nigerian Literature Review, must know him. I thought I should introduce him and his good works to the readers of this African Literature News, too. He discusses one of the books I thought every Nigerian/African should read, Swamp Full of Dollars, by Michael Peel. An excellent review. ENJOY!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Petina Gappa on the Guardian First Book Prize

Our own Petina Gappah has made it to the Guardian First Book Prize. Good luck, Petina. This time, I'm sure, you'll be rewarded for what you really deserve.

"The other fiction is a collection of 13 short stories by Petina Gappah, a Zimbabwean who has spent the last 10 years working as a trade lawyer in Geneva. She began writing seriously after suffering what she called a "severe depression." In an interview with the Guardian earlier this year, Gappah said: "It was one of those early mid-life crises really. I started asking myself 'What is it that I want from my life?' This question kept haunting me: 'Do I want to be a lawyer who always wanted to be a writer, or do I actually want to be a writer?'"

Here's the rest of the story. ENJOY

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Africa's elite and the Western media

Well, friends, this is no news. I know, I know. But, well, I thought you might want to read this little piece of mine just published by the Pambazuka guys.

This is how they summed my attempts to capture the current mood of the African mind.
"Responding to intellectuals' efforts to repair the downtrodden image of African people, Chielo Zona Eze urges us to recognise that we have 'moved beyond the world shaped by the 19th century ideas of the African'. Stressing that he sees little probability of Nigeria's difficulties coming to an end anytime soon, the author asks us to consider a 'change of heart that begins with a radical rejection of the thought that the West is only interested in grubbing in the African compost'."

It would be interesting to see what you think of the essay. ENJOY.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Can I Get a Witness?

Hei! Do you know that Uwem Akpan's Say You're One of Them is still the New York Time's # 1 bestseller? Ha, ha, ha! A thing of beauty is a joy forever.
Well, I read this review published a few months ago and thought you might like to read. ENJOY!

Heavyweights vie for book prize

Another one in line for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She's on the shortlist for John Llewellyn Rhys literary prize.
Here's the scoop. Good luck to Adichie.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Week two: points of view

For those who missed it, Professor John Mullan has a great analysis of Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun.
This is a sample of his insightful discussion:
"Structurally, the crucial viewpoint is Ugwu's. The novel begins with his experience and he is given the book's last words, which are the dedication of a book about the Biafran war, extracts from which have been interleaved throughout the novel. We were led to believe that this book was being written by Richard, the professional writer who has set out to record this historic catastrophe, his righteous "indictment of the world". As the novel ends, he gives up on the project, and the title he was using – The World Was Silent When We Died – is taken over by the former houseboy."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Why I Write In Mother Tongue

I thought you might like to read the latest on Ngugi wa Thiong'o's take on Africans and their native languages.
This is a taste of Gregory Austin Nwakunor's report on the recently held conference in Port Harcourt. It was at the conference that Ngugi wa Thiong'o spoke:
"Since Ngugi was launched into literary consciousness in 1964 by the 'infantile' masterpiece, Weep Not Child, he has mature in his craft, growing from 'singular' to 'plurimental' heroism."
By the way, I am always fascinated by how Nigerian journalists make use of English. Does anyone understand what the above writer meant by infantile masterpiece? The last time I checked my dictionary infantile meant "very immature." Is Weep Not Child very immature? And what in Good Buka's name, is plurimental?

Enjoy if you can.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sorry Chimamanda, We Need The Single Story Of Our Failures!

John Iteshi has an interesting take on Chimamanda's speech. Here's a scoop:
"I have painstakingly watched the beautifully delivered speech by Ms Chimamanda Adichie on “the Dangers of a Single Story”. The main point of her speech is that Europeans have mainly propagated a single story of Africa which is always about our poverty, wars and in short, all about negative things. She basically wants the rest of the world to also acknowledge good things about Africa, especially the fact that not everybody in Africa is starving."

Iteshi's is a radical and sincere analysis of the African condition and Chimamanda Adichie's speech.ENJOY!

Did Chimamanda Get the African Story Right?

Last week I posted the singularly beautiful talk delivered by our own brilliant Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It was titled: "The dangers of a Single Story." The following day I also posted what I thought was, or should be, seen as a counter to Chimamanda's Achebean single story: Chris Abani's muse on humanity. I love both speeches, and I am particularly proud of these giants of the reborn African literature.
One question remains to be answered. More than fifty years after the publication of Things Fall Apart, which did a great job in challenging the Western narrative of Africa, it would seem that we Africans still have the need to keep on begging the West to understand us. Do we really need the West to understand us more than we need to understand ourselves, one another? Do Nigerians understand one another? I don't have an answer to this. If anyone has, I would be more than pleased to learn from him/her.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Talks Chris Abani muses on humanity

And this.
"Chris Abani tells stories of people: People standing up to soldiers. People being compassionate. People being human and reclaiming their humanity. It's "ubuntu," he says: the only way for me to be human is for you to reflect my humanity back at me."
Isn't he great?

Talks Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story

Have you see this?

"Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice -- and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding."

Isn't she beautiful and great? ENJOY!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Why do South Africans hate Nigerians?

It looks I am now posting lots of things here. But, well, this has to do with literature. Good Lawd, how couldn't it be the case? After all it is Chimamanda! Friends, she is literature.
Well enjoy some of her interesting thoughts on why Nigerians and South Africans (Black South Africans!) are as friendly as Germans and Brits. Did I take the comparison too far? I don't know. Well, ENJOY!


Something seems to be brewing here. I don't know whether this website is official or not. But well, since it is now on the public domain, I think I can share it with you.
Here is the gist: Together with two other authors, Chris Abani, the famous Nigerian-American novelist put together a book documentation of his impression of Nollywood, the Nigerian film (sorry) video industry. The overall impression is that Nollywood art production is crude, and, indeed, it feeds on the macabre, the exotic and Gothic.
Some Nigerians don't seem to have taken this so well. They are fuming that Chris Abani has misrepresented Nigeria. I'm yet to grasp the extent of anger here. Well, I'm still gathering info on this.
If you have time, please read this polemic. I will come back to the issue of Nollywood and the Nigerian, indeed, African psyche sometime.
Enjoy if you can.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Notes from an opening: The Garden City Literary Festival

It is good to know that literary festivals, fests, meetings and what have you, are burgeoning in different corners in Africa or in the Diaspora by Africans. Zimbabweans in the Diaspora appear to make the most noise - weighty noise that is. Their blogs are everywhere - of course I have to mention Emmanuel Sigauke, Ivor Hartmann, Petina Gappah. Then you have this beautiful online journal, Sea Breeze, organized by Liberian writers and lovers of literature. Of course Kenyans are there, too. Talk of Kwani and its beautiful activities.

Molara Wood reports from Port Harcourt, one of the literary capitals in Nigeria. Good things are happening there, friends. And in Nigeria, my dear country. I smile for my beloved country. You get?

One character in J.M Coetzee's Elizabeth Costello suggested to Africans that if they want the world to take their literature seriously, they themselves should take it seriously, read, read and read their works. Some might see this as somehow too biting an observation, but I think it is true. This is exactly what these literary fests, blogs, facebooks, conferences will achieve. Literature is coming back to Africa - after several years of hiatus due to misrule and other things beyond the writers' control.
Literature is coming back home! Are you ready to welcome her!

By the way (before I'm carried away by the joy of the coming of the bride), here is Molara Wood's report. ENJOY!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Guinea Seethes as a Captain Rules at Gunpoint

I truly hate to interrupt my dear lovers of literature with this mundane, all too mundane report: the Guinean soldiers shooting spree, the recklessness with which the new leader handles the fate of ten million Guineans, the utter disregard for the basic humanity of our fellow Africans, the, … I truly can’t add anything to this. Please read the article yourself and judge. Nevertheless, I ask myself as an intellectual, as an African humanist, what all this has to say about me. Where is my heart in all of this? Where is my mind? What have I done to bring people (Africans) to respect people (Africans).

By the way here is the Article.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Say You Are One of Them - New York Times Bestseller!

This is good news. Say You Are One Of Them has made it to the New York Times bestseller list.
This, I think, has deep implications for African literature. It means that many more people have now been exposed to the riches of African literature. They will, I think, look out for more works, more good stories, that we all know, are there. As I said earlier somewhere, it means that more literary agents and editors will no longer reject your work with such flimsy excuses like this one: good story, well-written, but interest in African literature is not there.
So, this said, I should get back to work. You, too, dear friend.
By the way see the thing for yourself. ENJOY!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

EC Osundu - New Book Deal

Boy, o boy! They keep pouring in. As if the akpanic Oprah book choice wasn't good enough news for African writing, EC Osondu has added smile-inducing news of his own. Yes, smile-inducing for all lovers and practitioners of African literature. Book deal, book deal! Not just one. Two book deals! Good Lord of Africa.
Okay, I'm getting carried away. My dear Nsukka friends would say "Happiness is hindering me from being happy."
Now, read what I read:
"Tim Duggan, executive editor at HarperCollins, has signed Nigerian author E.C. Osondu to a two-book deal. Duggan took North American rights to a short story collection, called Voice of America, and a novel, called This House Is Not for Sale, by the Providence College professor who won the Caine Prize for African Writing and has a Syracuse University M.F.A. The short story collection follows a variety of characters moving between Nigeria and the U.S., and Duggan described the novel as “a multigenerational saga centered around a Nigerian king and his court in Lagos.” Jin Auh, of the Wylie Agency, brokered the deal."

Here is the Source

Have you already gone back to your writing table? The next deal might be yours. Good luck.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Uwem Akpan's Big Bang!

For those who have not yet heard it, it is true. For those who have already read about in in one of the many news media outlets out there, I think that this is huge, really huge. It is huge not only because is assures that Akpan becomes an instant millionaire (well, he's a Jesuit priest), it is so because African literature has finally arrived in America. With Chimamanda, Helon Habila, Petina Gappah, Chris Abani and many others already out there, this Akpanic big bang simply burns the arrival of African literature into American consciousness. Now, let's hope that literary agents and editors will begin to consider our manuscripts seriously.
Be well, and now, good luck in your writing.

"Say You're One Of Them": Uwem Akpan Is Oprah's New Book Pick

It's official. Uwem Akpan's Say You're One of Them is Oprah's latest book pick. Congratulations, bro. This is great news for African literature. It's becoming more visible.
Here is the news outlet. ENJOY

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Petina Gappah has been shortlisted for the prestigious Frank O'Conner prize in short stories. Great, great news for her, and for African literature.
We wish her all the luck. See the entire article HERE

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Gods and Soldiers: The Penguin Anthology of Contemporary African Writing

Rob Spillman believes that the "writing coming out of Africa today has an unparalleled urgency. The stakes are high ... Reading through the biographical notes of Gods and Soldiers, one feels the pervasive violence that lurks beneath these stories and the lives of their authors"

I'm not sure what this says about African literature, but the review appears revealing.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Interview: Petina Gappah

For those of us who cannot get enough of Petina Gappah, here is a very nice interview she gave to Richard Lea of Guardian co. She tells Richard Lea, she speaks for herself, not her country. ENJOY!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Clout of Africa

James Gibbons sees a flowering of the African mind in the most recent novels and collections of short stories. He has great words for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Helon Habila, Laila Lalami and many more, and hopes that this truly initiates the long awaited emergence of African writing. I love that.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2009 – winners announced.

Courtesy of Beattie's Book Blog, the winners of 2009 Commonwealth Writer's Prize have been announced. The winners were from Australia and Pakistan.
Our African contingent, sorry to say, lost out. Okay, friends, let's keep our fingers crossed for our next year's contingent. There'll be many African women, friends. That's good news.
See the details here. ENJOY!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Three African Women Writers on Frank O'Connor Prize Longlist

Courtesy of Wealth of Ideas, three African Women writers, two Nigerians, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Sefi Atta and one Zimbabwean, Petina Gappah, are on Frank O'Connor Longlist. Good Luck, sistas! Only God knows what would become of Africa without her women. Ah, Mama Africa.

Check our Emmanuel Sigauke's Post. ENJOY

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Caine Prize Shortlist 2009


Alert! The 2009 Caine Prize for African Writing shortlist has been announced, and SA’s Alistair Morgan features in the mix for the short story that has had everyone breathless, “Iceberg” (see link below to read it). Without further ado, the shortlistees are:

* Mamle Kabu (Ghana) “The End of Skill” from Dreams, Miracles and Jazz, published by Picador Africa, Johannesburg 2008
* Parselelo Kantai (Kenya) “You Wreck Her” from the St Petersburg Review, NY 2008
* Alistair Morgan (South Africa) “Iceberg” from The Paris Review no. 183, NY 2008
* EC Osondu (Nigeria) “Waiting” from, October 2008
* Mukoma wa Ngugi (Kenya) “How Kamau wa Mwangi Escaped into Exile” from Wasafiri No54, Summer 2008, London

Courtesy of BOOK SA

Friday, May 8, 2009

Rising Star: Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, author

Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani's novel, I Do Not Come To You By Chance, has been published. It's already making noise. Sounds good.
See a kind of blurb, or perhaps pre-review noise. ENJOY!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Comic Elegies and Dead Dancers

Petina Gappah gave a great interview to African Writing Online. Good read and a beautiful window to her soul. It does appear that she wants to be known as a humorous writer. ENJOY!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Harare North, By Brian Chikwava Scams, scrapes and survival in a city of refugees

The reviews keep pouring in. I'm loving this. Margaret Busby enjoyed Brian Chikwava's Harare North. She urges us to "Come to this novel with an open mind and, as well as giving you much to ponder about the nature of right and wrong, exile and belonging, it will surely make you go kak kak kak."
I guess I can't wait to go kak kak kak.
So here you go.

N.B: I read Petina Gappah's response to Aminatta Forna's review of her book in her blog. An interesting conversation went on there. For those who would like to have a glimpse, see:

Friday, April 24, 2009

Survival instincts Reveiw of Brian Chikwava and Petina Gappa

Those of us who came of age in the business of literature in the 80s and 90s knew that beside Nigeria who boasted of Achebe and Soyinka, among others, and beside Kenya and perhaps South Africa, Zimbabwe is the, should I say? African preeminent literary powerhouse. I don't know whether I got this right. Well, I think I did. Just think of names like Marechera who mesmerized us all with the existentialist bent of his writings; Yvonne Vera, who pulled at the lyrical strings of our souls. Or Chenjerai Hove etc etc. Then Mugabe suddenly reminded us all what we hate about African leaders: they love to die in office, of course, having sent uncountable others to their early graves.
Anyway, literature, like many other things went into a kind of winter sleep. Like the polar bears.
But then the human spirit never dies. Zimbabwe experiences a cultural renaissance in the narrative art now. Petina Gappah and Brian Chikwava blaze the trail in this regard. I have heard that many more are following their example.
Here is a review of their works by Aminatta Forna. I thought that the review was excellent. I had to read this sentence more than three times, though: "Through humour and compassion, she depicts that most quintessential of African characteristics: the ability to laugh at life, for fear of crying."
Quintessential African characteristics? Hmmm.
Well, enjoy.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Penguin Prize for African Writing

Friends, it's finally here. Months ago, I wrote about the new African literature prize. Penguin publishers has finally unveiled the prize. It's for full novel manuscript. For all African writers regardless of where you live, regardless of age and gender. Okay, I think I should just go back to my table and write.
By the way, here is the real scoop. Good Luck!

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: How the acclaimed novelist is becoming a role-model and mentor

Katy Guest interview Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in Independent. Great interview with some morsels of information on Adichie.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Petina Gappah's An Elegy for Easterly has received its first full review on Guardian, by Tom Fleming. Tom is very excited and promises that the collection will not disappoint. Here are his words:

"More and more I have come to admire resilience," begins the epigraph, a poem by Jane Hirshfield. Yet sometimes laughter is the only form of resilience Petina Gappah's characters can manage, and it is the frequent humour in these stories that makes them remarkable, even if their outcomes can be tragic. Often satirical, occasionally lyrical, they are a delight."

I look forward to having m own copy on my table soon. Here is the whole review, by the way. ENJOY!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Interview: Brian Chikwava - Double life of Brian

Brian Chikwava's short stories, Harare North is out now from Jonathan Cape
I was looking for a review of this book, instead I chanced on an interview. Sure, I prefer reviews, but, well in the absence of one, an interview helps.
Here is an interview he gave to LEE RANDALL Well HERE is the interview.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The interview: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

In her harrowing novel Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie transported 650,000 British readers to war-ravaged Biafra. Now she turns her fierce intelligence to short stories telling of her life in America. William Skidelsky meets the prize-winning author.

Dambudzo Marechera: The life and times of an African writer

Helon Habila, one of my favorite Nigerian writers, has a profound essay on Dambudzo Marechera, one of very powerful African writers of the late 20th century. I regard Marechera highly, second only to Yvonne Vera, also from Zimbabwe.
Habila provides background, analytical information about Dambuzdo the man. It helped me understand his novella, House of Hunger.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Books to look out for in 2009

Helon Habila take us through the most important books to look out for this year in his highly interesting piece. Some of the books are already making noise here and there; reviews are already trickling in. I'm excited; I can't wait to have these books on my table. Habila seems to love Zimbabwean authors. "Zimbabwean authors never disappoint," he writes. Hmmm, the Nigerian in me wants to resist, but, the objective spirit in me tells me to please shut up. And so, I agree with Habila. Well, read the entire essay and see for yourself. HERE YOU GO!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Man Booker International Shortlist

Worth £60,000 to the winner, the prize is awarded every two years to a living author who has published fiction either originally in English or whose work is generally available in translation in the English language.

The winner is chosen solely at the discretion of the judging panel; there are no submissions from publishers. Nigerian writer, Chinua Achebe won the 2007 prize and Albanian writer, Ismail Kadare won the inaugural prize in 2005 and went on to gain worldwide recognition for his work. The 2009 panel of judges will be announced on 19 March 2008. In addition, there is a separate prize for translation and, if applicable, the winner can choose a translator of his or her work into English to receive a prize of £15,000.
Ngugi wa Thiongo has made the 2009 Man Booker Shortlist

The Man Booker International Prize echos and reinforces the annual Man Booker Prize for Fiction in that literary excellence will be its sole focus. The Man Booker International Prize is significantly different from the annual Man Booker Prize for Fiction in that it highlights one writer's overall contribution to fiction on the world stage. In seeking out literary excellence the judges consider a writer's body of work rather than a single novel.

Here is the list of other contenders
* Peter Carey (Australia)
* Evan S. Connell (USA)
* Mahasweta Devi (Bangladesh)
* E.L. Doctorow (USA)
* James Kelman (UK)
* Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru)
* Arnošt Lustig (Czechoslovakia)
* Alice Munro (Canada)
* V.S. Naipaul (Trinidad/India)
* Joyce Carol Oates (USA)
* Antonio Tabucchi (Italy)
* Dubravka Ugresic (Croatia)
* Ludmila Ulitskaya (Russia)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


THE BAOBAB PRIZE African literary award announces the winners of last year's competition.

The Baobab Prize for a work of fiction aimed at readers aged 8-11 years : Lauri Kubuitsile, Botswana. Story: Lorato and her Wire Car.

The Baobab Prize for a work of fiction aimed at readers aged 12-15 years: Ivor Hartman, Zimbabwe. Story: Mr. Goop.

The Baobab Prize for a rising writer aged 18 years or younger: Aisha Kibwana, Kenya. Story: Strange Visitors that took her life away.

Congratulations to the winners.

See their Website for next year's competition.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Emmanuel Sigauke Interviews Petina Gappah

An interesting interview by one of the newest, and strongest voices in Zimbabwean literature, Petina Gappa. I found the interview deep, intelligent and enriching.
Her collection of short stories, Elegy for the Easterly, will be published in April in the US.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Commonwealth Writers Prize Fallout: Helon Habila Asks, “Is Nigeria’s Publishing Industry Dead?”

Helon Habila raises an important question that has been disturbing me and prodding my fingers to caress my keyboard ever since I read the news of this year's Commonwealth Writers' Prize shortlist. Only one Nigerian is present. All the rest are South Africans. But please don't rejoice yet. That Nigerian doesn't reside in Nigeria and the book was not produced in Nigeria either. So, it is only right that Habila raises this all important question: Is Nigerian Publishing Industry Dead? Thank God the question is not whether writing talent is lacking in Nigeria. This is a question that must be answered by all those responsible for the largely phony literary prizes that are awarded in Nigeria. Phony, I say. And one of them is supposed to weight as much as $50.000 dollars. Good Gracious!

by the way please read Habila's original words HERE

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Wasafiri New Writing Prize 2009

This is a new scoop. You can't imagine how I came about this one, but, boy it's real for the great and aspiring great writers out there.

Wasafiri. That surely sounds familiar, doesn't it? Well, it's a great literary magazine based in London. It's celebrating its 25th anniversary.

The theme: 25!

The Wasafiri New Writing Prize 2009 is open to writers all over the world. The creative submissions come in three categories - poetry, non fiction and fiction. You can submit in any one genre. There is an entry fee of five pounds per entry. Visually impaired entrants and/or those who cannot type due to disability may submit through audio CD. The closing date is 30th June 2009.

So, here's the rundown of it all:
Categories: Poetry, Short Story and Non fiction.
The judges: Susheila Nasta, Mimi Khalvati, Margaret Busby and Blake Morrison.
Closing Date: 30th June 2009.
Open to: All writers regardless of ... all the regardlesses.

You can as well go to their website if you want to fetch water from the source.

Did I remember to say good luck?
And by the way, the prize money is: 300 Pound Sterling. That can buy you a few things.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Call for materials on African sexualities

This is a call for materials for a contemporary Reader on African sexualities, which is being developed and edited by Prof. Sylvia Tamale-outgoing Dean of Law at Makerere University and Coordinator of the Law, Gender and Sexuality Research Project at the Faculty of Law.

This seminal work will be a compilation of diverse populist and academic pieces that either engage with or inform sexualities enacted all over the African continent. We are interested in collecting a range of materials including (but not limited to) essays, fiction, poetry, web blogs, art, crafts, photographs, film, documentaries, diaries, music, theoretical discussions, empirical papers, academic publications etc, that address and inform African sexualities.

The editor will obtain copyright permission where necessary. Although the main language of the Reader will be English, relevant materials published in French, Portugese, Spanish, Arabic and any African tongue will be translated for inclusion. This Reader aims to be as inclusive of all of Africa as possible. The deadline for submission is October 30, 2009. All received pieces will be acknowledged.

Please send material to:
Stella Nyanzi,
Research Assistant,
Law, Gender and Sexuality Research Project,
Faculty of Law,
Makerere University,
P. O. Box 7062, Kampala, Uganda.
Cel: +256-775-301-767
Tel: +256-414-543-946
Fax: +256-414-543-110

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Shortlists for Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2009

The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2009
Regional shortlists announced

The shortlists for the 2009 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book and Best First Book have been announced today in London.
Best Book Award: Africa
Damon Galgut/The Imposter /Penguin Books/South Africa
Tim Keegan/My Life with the Duvals/Umuzi/South Africa
Mandla Langa/The Lost Colours of /the Chameleon Picador Africa/South Africa
Sindiwe Magona/Beauty’s Gift /Kwela Books/South Africa
Zoë Wicomb/The One That Got Away/Umuzi/South Africa
Best First Book Award: Africa
Uwem Akpan/Say You‘re One of Them/Abacus/Nigeria
Jane Bennett/Porcupine/Kwela Books/South Africa
Jassy Mackenzie/Random Violence/Umuzi/South Africa
Chris Marnewick/Shepherds and Butchers/Umuzi/South Africa
Sue Rabie/Boston Snowplough Human & Rousseau/South Africa
Megan Voysey-Braig/Till We Can Keep an Animal/Jacana Media/South Africa
The judging panel for the Africa region was chaired by Elinor Sisulu (South Africa). She was joined by judges Kole Omotoso (Nigeria) and Billy Karanja Kahora (Kenya).
Elinor Sisulu commented: ‘Once again Africa’s publishing powerhouses, South Africa and Nigeria dominated the entries. Of over fifty entries received, only two were from Kenya and two from Ghana. There was an unusually high number of short story collections among the entries.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Caves of Rotten Teeth by A. Igoni Barrett

I am sincerely proud of the renaissance of Nigerian literature. This one just got in and I'm sticking my beautiful head for it. It's gonna be good, friends.

From Caves of Rotten Teeth by A. Igoni Barrett is a collection of short stories that was first published in Nigeria in November 2005. The Orange Prize-shortlisted author Laura Hird described the book as 'a brilliant debut collection' and in an interview with the literary magazine Pulp.Net named 'The Phoenix', a short story in the collection, as one of the best stories she had ever read. 'The Phoenix' won the 2005 BBC World Service short story competition.

The fourteen stories in this edition of From Caves of Rotten Teeth (five of which did not appear in the first edition) deal with circumstances that reflect the day-to-day existence of modern African life. Although the stories may at times seem surreal the reader will recognize the truthfulness and realism with which they delve into the lives of their characters. The author has an uncanny eye for detail and a deadly accurate, though sometimes satirical, ear. With these stories he has achieved a vision that is both light-hearted and profound.

Praise for the second edition of From Caves of Rotten Teeth

'In this collection, Barrett entrances the reader with his lush language and imagery that brings the essence of struggle alive…the effect on the reader's imagination will last for a very long time' —Uzodinma Iweala, author of Beasts of No Nation

'A. Igoni Barrett's prose captures, with enviable depth, the emotions and circumstances of his characters…from addiction to everyday survival, these stories are delivered with sincerity' —Kaine Agary, author of Yellow-Yellow

'These stories share the same beauty of language, the same keen sense of observation…reading the collection is a journey into a world that is sometimes humorous, but very often a reminder of all that is wrong in our world' —Chika Unigwe, author of The Phoenix

Orders can be made by calling the number +234-702-533-5538 or sending an email to

The book is also available from the following places:

Kachifo Limited:


Onyoma Research Publications: +234-807-763-8752

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Chinasa, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Another good story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. "Chinasa" could be seen as a continuing link between the devastation of Nigerian civil war and the Igbo people's present effort to cope. The past is not past, the past lives on, shapes us, indeed, determines the future. THE STORY

Monday, January 12, 2009

Why shouldn't I write about Africa?

This is an interesting essay with Africa-related ideas. I enjoyed reading it. Hope you too will. Here we go!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Maik Nwosu - In the Time of His Excellency

Maik Nwosu has an interesting short story in The Dublin Quarterly. I admire Nwosu's writings. Sometimes though, I tend to believe that he has a way of estranging his fictional world that the reader has difficult time relating it to easily identifiable reality. I found it excruciating getting through Invisible Chapters and Alpha Song.
There is no doubt though that he is very much interested in African reality and is determined to portray it aesthetically.
Enjoy "In the Time of His Excellency."

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Kaine Agary in Interview

An exciting interview with Kaine Agary, the winner of the 2008 Nigerian Literature Prize. It's titled: "Everything around me is motivational." I say a full-throated Amen not only considering her picture, which I confess, made my heart skip some beats, but also getting a glimpse of her beautiful mind. Enjoy

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A Review of Chika Unigwe's Novel

Uche Peter Umez undertakes an interesting review of Chika Unigwe's 2007 novel, The Phoenix, in the most recent issue of Eclectica. Enjoy.

New African Literature Prize

This is really hot! Penguin launches African prize

This is real good news! Penguin has launched an African writing prize and a Penguin African Writers series in 2009.

The initiatives will mark the 20th anniversary of Penguin publishing in the South African market. The prize will be for unpublished work and will have two categories, fiction and non-fiction, with SA R50, 000 (£3,143) and a publishing contract with Penguin South Africa on offer to each winner.

The Penguin African Writers series will be developed in conjunction with Heinemann. Our own Chinua Achebe will act as senior editorial advisor to the series.


Friday, January 2, 2009

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Collection of Short Stories

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's upcoming collection of short story, The Thing Around Your Neck, is due in April, 2009. Here is an example of the stories: "A Private Experience." As always, an exciting read.