Published by Heinemann in 1987, African Short Stories is a collection of short stories written by writers from different parts of Africa and edited by the Nigerian celebrated author Chinua Achebe and C.L Innes. The range of stories in this collection is diverse and covers a broad and wide spectrum, rich in African themes.
One of the shortest yet interesting story in this collection is the ‘Gentleman of the Jungle’ written by Jomo Kenyatta. The story begins like an oral traditional story that is usually told at night by the fireside.
Jom Kenyatta (1891 – 1978) became Kenya’s Prime Minister and then President after his country gained independence in 1963. ‘Gentlemen of the Jungle’ is included in his study of the Gikuyu, Facing Mount Kenya (1938), as a Gikuyu story which illustrates ‘the relation between the Gikuyu and the Europeans’.
‘The Gentlemen of the Jungle’ follows the story of an elephant that makes friendship with man. One day a heavy thunderstorm strikes and the elephant goes to find refuge at his friend’s little hut. Interestingly, there is soon a struggle between the elephant and his manly friend over the ownership of the hut. So sadly, the elephant wins as it kicks out its manly friend out of the hut. The lion, who is the King of the Jungle appears amidst the struggle and decides to set up a Commission of Inquiry so as to settle the issue of the ownership of the hut. But the Commission of Inquiry is filled only by colleagues of the elephant, and inevitably, the elephant wins over his friend, the man. Would the man take revenge? What do you think the man would do to claim his hut back?
I liked this story so much. Why? The whole story symbolically describes the relation between the Gikuyu and the Europeans as already stated. I liked the writer’s symbolic use of animals. A good score there, a good story indeed!
African Short Stories contains equally good writers like the celebrated Ghanaian writer Ama Ata Aidoo, award winning author Chinua Achebe, the Nobel Laurette Nadine Gordimer, the Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o and others.
Readers will enjoy many of the other stories, such as Ama Ata Aidoo’s Certain Winds from the South, Chinua Achebe’s Civil Peace as well as Nadine Gordimer’s The Bride Groom.
African Short Stories is divided into four sections. The first section contains collections from West Africa, the second from East Africa, the third from Northern Africa and then the fourth from Southern Africa. Together, there are twenty short stories from across the African continent.
Anyone who likes the short story genre would like this collection.