African Classics Every Book Lover Must Have (Part Two)
Begun a month ago, we present the second part of our list of some African classics every book lover must have.
A Bend in a River
by V.S. Naipaul
Published by Vintage
V.S. Naipaul takes us deeply into the life of one man—an Indian who, uprooted by the bloody tides of Third World history, has come to live in an isolated town at the bend of a great river in a newly independent African nation. Naipaul gives us the most convincing and disturbing vision yet of what happens in a place caught between the dangerously alluring modern world and its own tenacious past and traditions.
by Chimamanda Adichie
Published by Heinemann
Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus focuses on fifteen-year-old Kambili and her older brother Jaja, who lead privileged lives in Enugu, Nigeria. They stay in a beautiful house, with a caring family, and attend an exclusive missionary school. They’re completely shielded from the troubles of the world. Yet, as Kambili reveals in her tender-voiced account, things are less perfect than they appear. Although her papa is generous and well respected, he is fanatically religious and tyrannical at home. A home that is silent and suffocating. As the country begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili and Jaja are sent to their aunt, a university professor outside the city, where they discover a life beyond the confines of their father’s authority. Books cram the shelves, curry and nutmeg permeate the air, and their cousins’ laughter rings throughout the house. When they return home, tensions within the family escalate, and Kambili must find the strength to keep her loved ones together. Purple Hibiscus is an exquisite novel about the emotional turmoil of adolescence, the powerful bonds of family, and the bright promise of freedom.
So Long a Letter
by Mariama Ba
Published by Waveland Press
In So Long a Letter, Mariama Ba, a long-time women’s activist, exposes the double standards between men and women in Africa. The book takes the form of a long letter written by a widow, Ramatoulaye, to her friend, over the mandatory forty-day mourning period after the death of a husband. Both women married for love and had happy, productive marriages, were educated and had work they loved. However, each of their husbands chose to take a second wife and the women had to make separate decisions. Ramatoulaye decided to stay married, although it meant rarely seeing her husband and knowing that he was squandering money on a young girl, who is her daughter’s friend. Ramatoulaye’s friend divorced her husband and eventually left the country, to settle in the United States. In her letter, Ramatoulaye examines her life and that of other women of Senegal, their upbringing and training, as well as the cultural restrictions placed on them. It is a devastating attack, made all the more powerful by a skillful narrator.
by Cyprian Ekwensi
Published by Heinemann
This story is about the Fulani herdsmen of northern Nigeria. Mai Sansaye runs into a beautiful slave, Fatimeh, whom he buys for about six cattle from a rival leader. He guesses that he has a year’s grace before his rival commits acts of aggression toward him, but in the meantime he must contend with his wife Shaita, their sons; Jalla, Hodio and Rikku, as well as their daughter Leibe, and the many problems of life. Rikku, the favoured son, is infatuated with Fatimeh and falls sick when Hodio steals away with her, their father vows to hunt down the couple to heal the boy. Despite his best efforts, he is struck down by the wandering sickness. The story begins and ends with grass burning, a seasonal endeavour.
by Peter Abrahams
Published by Heinemann
Peter Abrahams gives us an unrivaled peek into the oppressive conditions the black man faces living under a white minority regime. The hopes and aspirations of an entire race seem to rest with the book’s hero Mine Boy. The book also presents a portrait of labour discrimination, appalling housing conditions and one man’s humanitarian act of defiance.
by Tsitsi Dangarembga
Published by Ayebia Clarke Publishing Ltd.
A young Rhodesian girl, Tambu, dreams of going to school in a family that favours her brother. Breaking with her female destiny to work in the fields and bear children, Tambu realises her ambition of attending her uncle’s mission school. But all is not well. Tambu’s cousin, Nyasha, is aware of the trap of a colonial education, which empowers individuals at the cost of their belonging to family and community. As Tambu’s dream materialises, Nervous Conditions charts Nyasha’s increasingly self-destructive eating disorder in a futile rebellion against patriarchy and history.
The Last Duty
by Osidore Okpewho
Published by Longman
The Last Duty is a Nigerian novel that focuses on the casualties of war. The book tells the story of the circumstances, deprivations, hardship and the zeal to survive. The central characters are Aku, wife of a man unjustly jailed for suspected pro-rebel activities, Major Ali Idris, a federal commander assigned to protect the village and its citizens, and Toje, a selfish local chief and rubber farmer who uses the circumstances of war to his own advantage. Under the intense pressure of war, their behaviour debases every moral virtue. The novelist uses dramatic monologue to capture their inner conflict that is a feature of the pressure that engulfs them. Most books on war are expected to deal with the physical casualties like the devastation of farms and residences, mass killing of soldiers and civilians, missing children and rape. But this book deals with casualties that are insidious and invisible psychological wounds – the effect of man’s inhumanity to man. The issue is treated with empathy, indicating that under pressure, we may be capable of such despicable actions.
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