Content

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Even More Works of Historical Fiction from African Writers

Map of Africa divided into kingdoms and provinces. Source: Digital Commonwealth

Almost two years ago, I shared a list of 19 works of historical fiction by African writers, which included Manu Herbstein's Ama, personifying the experiences of eighteenth century Africans during the slave trade, Youseef Ziedan's Azazeel set in 5th century AD and crafts the tale of a Coptic monk's journey from Upper Egypt to Alexandria and then Syria during a time of massive upheaval in the early Church, and Gabriella Ghermandi's Queen of Flower which tells the story of the Italian occupation of Ethiopia.



This list was followed up earlier this year with five 'new' works of historical fiction from African writers .... which included Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi's Kintu and Peter Kimani's Dance of the Jakaranda, as well as the forthcoming In the Palace of Flowers by Victoria Princewill inspired by the only existing first-person account of an Abyssinian slave in Iran.



Well, last month the LA Review of Books published an article on Reclaiming Africa's Stolen Histories through Fiction. In it, Lizzy Attree explores the works of African writers arguing that:
The courageous, probing works of Tshuma, Kimani, Attah, Owuor, Makumbi, and their cohort attempt to resurrect neglected narratives lost to the Kenyan, Zimbabwean, Ugandan, Ghanaian, and South African memory. By writing detailed personal stories, these authors reclaim ownership of a stolen history and lay the foundation for a future they'll write for themselves.

The article included an array of historical fiction by African writers - most of which I have pulled out. Not included are books that I featured in the previous two lists. 


Harmattan Rain by Ayesha Harruna Attah
Harmattan Rain follows three generations of women as they cope with family, love and life. A few years before Ghana’s independence, Lizzie-Achiaa’s lover disappears. Intent on finding him, she runs away from home. Akua Afriyie, Lizzie-Achiaa’s first daughter, strikes out on her own as a single parent in a country rocked by successive coups. Her daughter, Sugri grows up overprotected. She leaves home for university in New York, where she learns that sometimes one can have too much freedom. In the end, the secrets parents keep from their children eventually catch up with them.



Out of Darkness, Shining Light by Petina Gappah
The novel is about the last days of a Scottish explorer and missionary named David Livingstone, as well as the journey of his body from Zambia back to England. The book is 'narrated by his sharp-tongued cook, Halima, and a repressed African missionary, Jacob Wainwright,' and tells the tale of 'this harrowing 1,500-mile journey.'"

Dancing the Death Drill by Fred Khumalo
Paris, 1958. An Algerian waiter at the world famous restaurant, La Tour d'Argent, is arrested for the murder of two customers. As he awaits trial, his long-time friend, celebrated jazz musician and artist Jerry Moloto, is hounded by an opportunistic and ambitious journalist hoping to make a name for himself by being the first to reveal the real story behind the waiter's sudden extreme act of violence. Culling details from memory and from the waiter's own journals, the story emerges that he is actually Pitso Motaung, a mixed race South African who had volunteered to fight for the British army in the First World War. Through a tragic twist of fate, Pitso finds himself enlisted aboard the ill-fated SS Mendi the formidable warship sunk off the coast of the Isle of Wight, killing 646 people, including many black South African soldiers. Pitso witnesses many tragic events during the crossing and at the time of the sinking but one particularly cruel moment will stay with him for the rest of his life, resurfacing decades later to devastating effect.



Mount Pleasant by Patrice Nganang
In Cameroon in 1931, Sara is taken from her family and brought to Mount Pleasant as a gift for Sultan Njoya, the Bamum leader cast into exile by French colonialists, when she is just nine years old. Sara's story takes an unexpected turn when she is recognised by Bertha, the slave in charge of training Njoya's brides, as Nebu, the son she lost tragically years before. In her new life as a boy, she bears witness to the world of Sultan Njoya - a magical yet declining place of artistic and intellectual minds. Seven decades later, a student returns home to Cameroon to research the place it once was, and she finds Sara, silent for decades, ready to tell her story. In her serpentine tale, a lost kingdom lives again in the compromised intersection between flawed memory, tangled fiction, and faintly discernible truth. The award-winning novelist Patrice Nganang's lyrical and majestic Mount Pleasant is a resurrection of the world of early-twentieth-century Cameroon and an elegy for the men and women swept up in the forces of colonisation.



The Way of the Women by Marlene van Niekerk
How can you speak when speech has been taken away? When the only person listening refuses to understand? Milla, trapped in silence by a deadly paralysing illness, confined to her bed, struggles to make herself heard by her maidservant and now nurse, Agaat. Contrary, controlling, proud, secretly affectionate, the two women, servant and mistress, are more than matched.

Life for white farmers like Milla in the South Africa of the 1950s was full of promise - newly married, her future held the thrilling challenges of creating her own farm and perhaps one day raising children. Forty years later, the world Milla knew is as if seen in a mirror, and all she has left are memories and diaries. As death draws near, she looks back on good intentions and soured dreams, on a brutal marriage and a longed-for only son scarred by his parents' battles, and on a lifetime's tug-of-war with Agaat. As Milla's old white world recedes, in the new South Africa her guardian's is ever more filled with the prospect of freedom.



Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor
When a young man is gunned down in the streets of Nairobi, his grief-stricken father and sister bring his body back to their crumbling home in the Kenyan drylands. But the murder has stirred up memories long since buried, precipitating a series of events no one could have foreseen. As the truth unfolds, we come to learn the secrets held by this parched landscape, hidden deep within the shared past of a family and their conflicted nation. Spanning Kenya's turbulent 1950s and 1960s, Dust is spellbinding debut from a breathtaking new voice in literature.



The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell
On the banks of the Zambezi River, a few miles from the majestic Victoria Falls, there was once a colonial settlement called The Old Drift. Here begins the epic story of a small African nation, told by a mysterious swarm-like chorus that calls itself man’s greatest nemesis. The tale? A playful panorama of history, fairytale, romance and science fiction. The moral? To err is human.

In 1904, in a smoky room at the hotel across the river, an Old Drifter named Percy M. Clark, foggy with fever, makes a mistake that entangles the fates of an Italian hotelier and an African busboy. This sets off a cycle of unwitting retribution between three Zambian families (black, white, brown) as they collide and converge over the course of the century, into the present and beyond. As the generations pass, their lives – their triumphs, errors, losses and hopes – form a symphony about what it means to be human. 

From a woman covered with hair and another plagued with endless tears, to forbidden love affairs and fiery political ones, to homegrown technological marvels like Afronauts, microdrones and viral vaccines – this gripping, unforgettable novel sweeps over the years and the globe, subverting expectations along the way. Exploding with colour and energy, The Old Drift is a testament to our yearning to create and cross borders, and a meditation on the slow, grand passage of time.



House of Stone by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma
Bukhosi has gone missing. His father, Abed, and his mother, Agnes, cling to the hope that he has run away, rather than been murdered by government thugs. Only the lodger seems to have any idea. Zamani has lived in the spare room for years now. Quiet, polite, well-read and well-heeled, he's almost part of the family - but almost isn't quite good enough for Zamani. Cajoling, coaxing and coercing Abed and Agnes into revealing their sometimes tender, often brutal life stories, Zamani aims to steep himself in borrowed family history, so that he can fully inherit and inhabit its uncertain future.




Finally, there's Esi Edugyan's Man Booker Prize Longlisted Washington Black inspired by a true story and out in the UK this month. 

When two English brothers take the helm of a Barbados sugar plantation, Washington Black - an eleven year-old field slave - finds himself selected as personal servant to one of these men. The eccentric Christopher 'Titch' Wilde is a naturalist, explorer, scientist, inventor and abolitionist, whose single-minded pursuit of the perfect aerial machine mystifies all around him, Titch's idealistic plans are soon shattered and Washington finds himself in mortal danger. They escape the island together, but then then Titch disappears and Washington must make his way alone, following the promise of freedom further than he ever dreamed possible.

0 comments:

Post a Comment

  

Powered by Blogger.

Featured post

What about Lusophone African Literature?