Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wole Soyinka attacks BBC portrayal of Lagos 'pit of degradation'

According the Guardian, Nigerian playwright derides Welcome to Lagos, shot in teeming slums, as colonialist and patronising.
Speaking to the Guardian, Professor Soyinka said that Welcome to Lagos, the BBC2 observational documentary which follows various people in poor areas of the city, was "the most tendentious and lopsided programme" he had ever seen."

I watched the programme on YouTube. Soyinka has been the one consistent voice that sought to expose this country's open sores. How he turns to accuse the West of colonialist ploy, when they do the same, is a bit intriguing. Is this the triumph of Achebeanism? But then Soyinka is, after all, a man, a normal human being who can feel lonely and the need to join the mass of community.
In a country where the new crop of intellectuals seek to solve the problems of their country by attacking the Western portrait of the same, an old lion might feel lonely, dispirited in his long moral battle to right the ship of his people.

I have to think that the BBC is doing a great service to Nigerian humanity. Rather than rankle our nativist bile, this series should put all of us to shame. Those of us who squirrel thousands and millions of dollars out of the country; those of us who are in the position to try a little kindness, we all who have the leisure to think about the world, should spend some time on any part of this series. We should ask ourselves some questions and think of ways to create a decent society in Nigeria.

Enjoy the Guardian report.

And here is a part of the series.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

No Arab Writers Make the Shortlist for ‘African Booker’

It appears that some voices are registering their discontent over the apparent negligence of North African writers in the only "African Booker," the Caine Prize for African writing. Short story prize, mark you. One of the voices expresses it thus:
"They’ve announced the shortlist for the Caine Prize for African Writing (sometimes called the “African Booker,” even though it’s a short-story prize, not for a novel). The shortlistees were selected from 115 entries from 13 African countries. (This compelled me to look up: “How many countries in Africa?” on the Internet. Most common answer: “53.”) ...Next year, let’s at least get it together and submit something from a few North African writers. After all, it may not be an ideally structured prize, but it is £10,000."

Good for you, brother, or sister. And this makes me actually want to be an Arab writer located somewhere north of whatever is called sub-Saharan Africa. I can compete in the Arabic Booker from which my sub-Saharan brothers and sisters are excluded. (Bad for them) Next, I will want to compete in their consolation prize, short story prize!), which some malarial delusion led some people to call Booker prize. Got it? God, please make me an Arab writer. Now!!!
Anyway here's the original piece. ENJOY.

The Caine Prize and African Writing

M.A. Orthofer got me thinking and even laughing, with his incisive comment on the Bookerishness of a short story prize. To be sure, the Caine Prize for African writing has been called the African Booker. Friends, this is a short story prize, and the organizers thought it honorable enough to call it the African Booker. But then there is an Arab Booker, Russian Booker, Asian Booker - all for published novels. Chei, chei, my goodness. It's like giving three women gifts. The first gets a real Rolls Royce, the second, a real, real, Rolls Royce, and the third, gets a Toyota Corrolla. She dances away happily announcing to the world: Rejoice with me, this is my Rolls Royce. Get it?

Anyway, here is Orthofer:
"The premier short-story prize of (sort of) the continent, I'm still no big fan of their touting it as: "widely known as the 'African Booker' and regarded as Africa's leading literary award". (The Booker -- all the Booker variations, from the Man to the Russian one -- are for novels (well, save the International one, which is an author/career prize), but for some reason African authors must make do with no more than 10,000 words ?)"
Orhofer also raises another important issue discussed by our Ikhide. ENJOY!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The winning qualities of the Caine prize

Ellah Allfrey meditates on the nature and existence of a prize dedicated solely to African writing and African writers. She acknowledges the difficulties involved with the label "African Writer," but nonetheless seems to shrug it off by implying that there's nothing wrong in having a literary prize address works from a given area. What, after all, is wrong in having Asian Man Booker?
What, in Holy Baajeba's name, is wrong in a person being called an African writer? Nothing, Ellah says, by Jove, nothing. After all, Ellah testifies (as a Cine prize judge), what triumphs in any prize, any, be it the prize for jaundiced-eye writers, or prize for widows and widowers, is the beauty of imagination. Simple. Alles klar?
Okay, here is Ellah in her words:
"In the end, for all the issues regarding the very nature of the prize, the ambition and imagination of the top stories won out. We loved what moved and transported us. It was that simple."
That's the winning qualities of the Caine prize.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Caine prize reveals 'uniquely powerful' shortlist

Whoever dubbed the Caine Prize for African writing African Booker made a mistake in his/her choice of word. A short story prize is a short story prize, and please God, let it remain so regardless of how helpful it is to the authors in particular and to African writing in general.
Anyway, this year's shortlist has been announced:
"'Uniquely powerful' stories from South Africa, Zambia, Sierra Leone and Kenya have made the shortlist for this year's Caine prize for African writing.
Dubbed the African Booker and with patrons including Nobel laureates Nadine Gordimer, Wole Soyinka and JM Coetzee, the £10,000 prize is given to a short story by an African writer published in English, with 115 entries from 13 African countries received this year."

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna

Tim Adams reviews Aminatta Forna's The Memory of Love, and observes that the book is " a sharp reminder that the prime mover of Sierra Leone's monstrous recent history remains on trial in the Hague. Charles Taylor is so steeped in blood that his prosecutors still struggle to make any single one of his crimes speak to the incalculable sum of the grief visited on an innocent population. As Forna's forensic reinhabiting of the aftermath of the conflict reveals, these wounds may have vivid physical realities, but it is always behind the eyes that they are felt most keenly."
It looks like Aminata is doing to Sierra Leone what Chimamanda did to Nigeria in her beautiful Half of a Yellow Sun.


Scamming my way through India

Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani's writing has such a seductive power. The writer, like a snake charmer, takes you into her world with her words, and before you know it, you're done. Done? Yes, done reading her text. This is what she displays not only in her beautiful novel, "I Do Not Come To You by Chance," but also in this piece, "Scamming my way through India."
She's relentless in her attempt to warn Nigerians off their God-given mission of destroying Nigeria (oh sweet home) and Nigeria's image (oyooyo image). Here's Tricia:
"Now, there’s a limit to what we Nigerian writers can do, how far we can go in salvaging our country’s international reputation using carefully crafted words. We can convince the world that our brothers swiping dollars off unsuspecting mugus are simply ensuring that dependent siblings have a good education; we can suggest that our sisters labouring through their privates in Italy are merely guaranteeing that aging parents spend their final days in comfort. But how on earth are we to explain away hijacking someone else’s creativity and boldly entering it for an international competition? Surely, there are quicker—and saner—ways of making a few hundred pounds."


Every Day is for the Thief - Ikhide R. Ikheloa

If I were to write a book on why I am not a Christian (original title, Bertrand Russell) it will be because of Nigerian Christianity. Nigerian Christianity makes a mockery of all that is holy and decent. Reading Ikhide's review of Teju Cole's novel, "Everyday is for the Thief," reminds me of my anger with Nigeria's new crop of evangelists and pastors:
"We are introduced to a Nigeria innocent of an abiding set of core values and a coherent spirituality – a consumer nation at its crassest defined largely by the absence of a reading culture. Soaked in the effluvium of the new Christianity, Nigeria is host to a relentless scourge of new “pastors” gouging their destitute congregation to near-death."
There is more to be discovered in this review, and, I would say, in the novel. ENJOY.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Beneath the Lion's Gaze - Review by Aida Edemariam

Aida Edemariam enjoyed reading Maaza Mengiste's Beyond the Lion's Gaze. The novel is overall a great job with the only weakness being that there's not much artistic flair. The author"tries to illustrate too much. There are few artistic attempts to describe this period in Ethiopia: those who stayed were hobbled by censorship and legions of informants; those who left, by the exigencies of exile and fear for those left behind – so it's understandable that her characters eventually become ciphers for particular factions, and a microcosm of everything that happened in the first four years of the revolution."
I think the review makes me wanna go grab the book. Thanks Aida.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Daughters of Eve and Other Tedious Tales

Nigeria, it appears, is the world capital of anthologies: Anthology of short stories, anthology of short poems, anthology of new writers, new writers anthology, anthology of surviving ANA members, anthology of neglected authors, anthology of bowlegged authors, oh boy.
While many people would want to celebrate this as a sign of the much anticipated renaissance of creative spirit in Nigeria, Ikhide Ikheloa says, ee ehh, mbaa, not so fast brothers and sisters.
He takes on one of the series of anthologies as an example of what should not be done. Here is a taste of his judgment:

"Daughters of Eve and Other New Short Stories from Nigeria is an anthology of Nigerian short stories edited by Dr. Emma Dawson and published by Critical, Cultural and Communications Press (CCCP), Nottingham, UK. [...]
This is an anthology so bad, I almost resolved to give [...]up reading and reviewing books. It is becoming an unbearable ordeal. Why did I read this book?"

I think that what our dear Ikhide is suggesting here is that it is often better to remain hungry rather than eat something that would induce you to vomit? Did I get him right?
Anyway, read the entire review. ENJOY!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Over the rainbow: South African writers take centre-stage at the London Book Fair

Andrew van der Vlies takes us through the post-apartheid landscape in South Africa.

"South African writers still have serious things to write about. But some have discovered levity in the face of gloom, reflecting both the country's dysfunction and its promise in surprising ways. The local literary scene is varied and sometimes strident: magical realism, SF, crime fiction, and the surreally comic are now as likely to be displayed in bookshops' "local writing" sections as social realism, reportage and cultural commentary."


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Mugabe inflames the Afro-pessimists, but Zimbabwe's story is much deeper

"As Zimbabwe turns 30, however, there are significant achievements to celebrate. Independence itself was one, especially as it brought the end of an apartheid-in-miniature that had allowed a small white minority to enjoy benefits not available to the black majority. Rhodesia's segregationist policy was grievously unjust; but children born in Zimbabwe would no longer have their life paths determined simply because of the colour of their skin." - Petina Gappah

Petina Gappah is a great writer. Her stories (An Elegy for Easterly) are among the best you have read or can ever read anywhere anytime.
I'm thinking however that she tries her very best to tell Zimbabwe's good stories here. Well, since we can assume that we hear from the native informer's voice we have no option than to take her words seriously.
It seems a bit worrisome though, for a sharp, restless mind like hers, to argue that one of the achievements of an independent country is independence.
That reads like a wrong premise. But I love the fact, and this is a fact, that Robert Mugabe invested a lot in education, making Zimbabwe one of the most educated countries in Africa.
No one questions Bob's love of, and dedication to, his country in his first ten years. He's been there for thirty years now. 30 fucking years! So, his investment in education couldn't produce an intelligent leader capable of taking over from him.
Enjoy Gappah's tribute to Zimbabwe at 30. May this country see better days.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Simple Case

E.C Osondu has a short story in the Atlantic Monthly.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Ikhide Ikheloa loves Ngugi wa Thiongo's latest offering, Dreams in a Time of War, and comes to the judgment that, this is "an important book, full of authentic history. It reminds us that we should not take for granted the valiant struggles of our warriors of old. They fought the good fight, for us and the land. They were not perfect people, but they had heart. May this book inspire us to pursue anew the dream that our ancestors fought and died for."
Great Review. Enjoy.

Why my son is reading all sorts of dangerous books

I love this one. I love especially its gentle dismissal of Achebe's ideology. I, too, love Achebe, but the more I read his essays the less relevant I find them to be to modern Africa.
Anyway, enjoy Petina's love of dangerous books.