Love stories from Africa? This must be interesting! That’s what I thought when I first saw this book. Published in 2006, and edited by Ama Ata Aidoo, African Love Stories: An Anthology is a collection of great stories written by Africa’s best female authors- perhaps only female because women make better love-story writers?
As with most anthologies where various authors have contributed, the style of writing, mood, and reactions one experiences when reading this book do tend to vary as one reads one story after another. The main theme is love but the stories do show that individuals get to experience it in various ways. How far can we go for love? Is love found in a different race?- as seen in Something Old, Something New (Leila Abouela) where a young white man driven by feelings travels across boundaries and seas to Khartoum to get married to the young woman he loves. A similar idea is seen in Marriage and other impediments (Tomi Adeaga). Is love an illusion? – As read in A Sunny Afternoon (Veronique Tadjo) where a married woman is under a delusion that a man she barely knew, a man she just spent an afternoon with is the love of her life. But the opening of this particular story shows that maybe some actions are mistaken for love: “he shouldn’t have shown her his home, taking her through each room, pointing at the paintings on the walls, commenting on them. She loved every bit of it. And he definitely should not have taken her to his bedroom. A bedroom is an intimate space…..where you hide your soul; your secrets…..only a few carefully chosen people are normally allowed in…”
Transition to Glory (Adichie) illustrates love experienced by a young woman in love with a married man while Jambula Tree is about the forbidden pleasures of love. The Rival was amusing- “The day Mrs Mensah dreamt of fruit bats in garden, she knew she was in trouble…” and trouble comes in form of a fourteen year old girl, determined to capture her uncle’s heart. She sleeps outside the master bedroom, dreaming of being the ruler of the house, with her uncle at her beck and call.
There are many more interesting stories but the story that really got me hooked was Modi’s Bride (Sindiwe Magoni) which is about a man who has refused to marry because no maiden has yet captured his heart. And then he meets Nonyibiba, and he wishes to marry her like yesterday!- “Sokadala was slow and late in finding love but once he did, nothing and no one could diminish or change that love-least of all stolen privileges. Five children, ten grandchildren, and two great grandchildren later, Nonyibiba died cradled in Modi’s arms…the simple gravestone tells the story of this great love”. When a person truly loves you, nothing else matters as also shown in Deep Sea Fishing.
Most of the stories are great, touching and yet some tear-jerking though some like ‘Three (Love) Stories in Brackets’, ‘The Tell Tale Heart’ and ‘The Veil’ were way beyond my understanding. I had expected a collection of the traditional heroic love stories but this anthology is a mix of old and modern love stories which make it a very interesting read. It’s only after I turned the last page that I noticed there was no story from the editor but maybe her introduction covers that gap! The book is well set with short notes about the contributors.
Ama Ato Aidoo is a Ghanaian author whose novel Changes won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for best book (Africa). She is also a talented poet and has written several children’s books.