Published by The Mantle in 2014, Gambit: Newer African Writing is a collection of interviews and short stories of emerging contemporary African writers.
As critics and readers, many of us read books, mostly for pleasure or for a specific end or academic goal. Often, we might praise or hate the writing without knowing or understanding why the author chose to end their story the way they did, or why they chose one genre over another.
This is what makes Gambit different from many other anthologies that I have read. In addition to the stories, the anthology includes a number of author interviews that offer an in-depth insight into the authors’ personalities and experiences, concerns, hopes and dreams as they weave a path into their writing careers. Why do writers write? Where does the inspiration come from? Why a particular genre? Is poetry dying out in Africa Literature? How is character and story development done? How are timeless stories made? All these questions are tackled in the interviews. The interviews inform and inspire readers and maybe other people who dream of a writing career. They bring out other perceptions of authors that most readers never get to know about.
Indeed, as one of the interviewed contributors notes, “A writer’s purpose is to cast light on the dark side of things, feelings and thoughts and actions that define the way we live and the way we perceive things…a writer is the chronicle of the human experience against the backdrop of change which in itself is constant.”
The stories also are as diverse as the interviews themselves. They cover a range of themes experienced in modern day Africa- love, social media dating (does it ever work out?), modern devices and their effects on relationships, shattered dreams and so many others. They all make for a delightful reading and do candidly air out stories that have been experienced by so many people in Africa.
The contributors to this wonderful collection include: Abdul Adan (Somalia/Kenya), Ayobami Adebayo (Nigeria), Dami Najayi (Nigeria), Richard Ali (Nigeria), Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (Nigeria), Dango Mkandawire (Malawi), Donald Mlosi (Botswana), Navuyo Rosa Tshuma (Zimbambwe) and Susan Ushie (Nigeria). The book ends with brief notes about each of these authors (which are helpful to the reader that may not be familiar with some of them).
If Gambit was meant “to build respect and awareness of the lives and lands with which we are ever-more connected”, then Emmanuel and Shaun have succeeded in this gamble- it surely pays off.
Emmanuel Iduma is a Nigerian write of fiction and art criticism and a cultural operator. He the author of the novel Farad and is a director of Saraba Magazine which he co-founded. Shaun Randol is the founder and Editor-in-chief of The Mantle.