Published in 2014, Dust is Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor’s first novel. The Kenyan writer is also a past winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing and a recipient of the well-regarded Iowa Writer’s Fellowship. She currently lives in Brisbane, Australia. At the center of ‘Dust’ are two families – the Ogandas and the Boltons. Aggrey Nyipir Oganda is the patriarch of the Oganda family. A former policeman, he has long retired to the village, where he lives with his wife, Akai. Before Kenya’s independence, Nyipir had worked under Hugh Bolton, a British colonial officer.
Book of the Month
Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s In the House of the Interpreter: A Memoir, published in 2012 by Pantheon books follows on from Dreams in A Time of War: A Child hood Memoir. It covers the years at Alliance High School from 1955 to 1959. These are the years of the Mau Mau liberation struggle. A young Ngugi returns to a desolate landscape. All has been torn down and people crammed into a concentration village next to a home guard post.
Okparanta is without a doubt a promising representative of the new generation of Nigerian and African authors, who are giving growing prominence to the expanding field of African short fiction writing. Not surprisingly, Granta has named her one of ‘six New Voices for 2012’. In Happiness, like Water we find a balance between stories set in Nigeria and those focusing on Nigerian immigrants in the US, with ‘America’ taking the middle ground, bringing together experiences in both countries. Whatever locale the author chose, in all the stories she explores important and topical subjects and, especially concerns confronting young Nigerian women.
Mia Couto’s novel, THE TUNER OF SILENCES, is a highly original and totally engaging story. Its narrator, Mwanito, is reflecting back on the early years of his life; he recounts his experiences while living in the company of three men and his slightly older brother in a remote campsite in a semi-desert in what one assumes is Mozambique. António Emílio Leite Couto, Mia Couto for short, is a Mozambican scientist, and a prolific award-winning poet and writer, whose work is increasingly becoming available in English. His 2009 novel, THE TUNER OF SILENCES, translated in 2013, is part coming of age story, part family drama and part a kind of love story.
In Interventions: A Life in War and Peace (published in 2012 by Penguin Press), Kofi Annan explores the ups and downs of his UN career, bringing into sharp focus the often complex and thankless task of diplomacy and the sometimes elusive search for solutions to conflicts. It highlights the contestations in the UN and how the Secretariat in New York sometimes finds itself trapped between fiercely competing powers attempting to secure individual victories in a field of many players.
In her engaging debut novel, We Need New Names, NoViolet Bulawayo introduces the reader to a young Zimbabwean girl growing up in a poor township named ‘Paradise’. Ten-year old, ‘Darling’ is a feisty and independent girl who is gifted with an astute sense of observation, an expressive voice and a good dose of humor. The novel is as much a touching coming of age story – first in Zimbabwe and later in Michigan, USA, as it is an engaging and reflective account on family and ‘home’, friendship and loss, and, finally on self-discovery.
Published by Kwela Books in 2010, “Men of the South” is a remarkable novel, one which you can read over and over again because the prose is simply addictive! And it’s not just the prose that captivates, the sensitive issues covered in a humorous manner makes it even more fascinating. The reader will love the characters portrayed, laugh with them, and sympathize when they are sad. The story is set in South Africa, during and after the apartheid era. There are three major issues covered, each narrated by three different men; in such a way that each could make for an independent short story, but if connected together can make one great novel.
Published by Heinemann in 1992, Contemporary African Short Stories is an anthology of stories edited by CL Innes and the late Chinua Achebe. The two are also editors of an earlier work entitled African Short Stories, published also by Heinemann in 1987. The later work features 20 stories written between 1980 and 1991 and which, once again, showcase the range and depth of African writing. They tell of adversity, strife and endurance in a mostly unsympathetic post-colonial environment, and examine the place of realism, superstition and fantasy in those struggles.
By any account, to entitle a début novel “The Book of War” can seem presumptuous. Yet, the book brilliantly lives up to the promise of its ambitious name. For war is everywhere here – but not romanticised with the usual bravery, indestructible friendship and clear divide between the camps of good and evil that justify the violence. No. In a sober style made out of short sentences, hand-picked words and balanced rhythm Whyle shows war for what it really is. A physical ordeal against nature and fellow humans. A defeat of minds and souls. A horror of which the only beauty lays in the vast, unspoiled landscape it is set in. From this ocean of brutality paradoxically emerges a subtle tale that reads as an engaging reflection on manhood and humanity.
Three Strong Women (by Marie NDiaye) is an intricately crafted, complex and thought provoking book. It doesn’t initially feel like a novel as it comprises three ‘novellas’, three fictional accounts that each explores one individual’s life at a crucial moment in time. Yet, reflecting on the content, the writing and the structure it falls clearly into the category of novel: the stories are linked in subtle ways through imagery, peripheral character and atmosphere.