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This is the LitNet archive (2006–2012)
Visit the active LitNet platform at www.litnet.co.za


 
Boeke | Books > Rubrieke | Columns

Rubrieke | Columns


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The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives tackles contemporary African culture
2011-12-15
Untitled Document The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives Author:Lola Shoneyin In this intriguing recent novel (published in London: Serpent’s Tail, 2010) Lola Shoneyin has tackled several widespread contemporary African cultural stresses, though her text is clearly located in urban Nigeria with a preponderance of Yoruba practices and presences overlaid by Muslim and Christian affiliations. Personal relationships, individual value systems and each character’s ways of managing...

My Mercedes is Bigger than Yours: An exploration of postcolonial society
Annie Gagiano - 2011-11-04
Untitled Document My Mercedes is Bigger than Yours Author:Nkem Nwankwo Published in the Heinemann African Writers Series in 1975, Nkem Nwankwo’s novel succeeded his highly popular first (comic) novel, Dando (1964). But despite what this “ancestry” might suggest, along with the amusingly boastful but not entirely appropriate title and the description of the text in the back cover blurb as “satirical”, My Mercedes Is Bigger than Yours is actually a morally cautionary...

Offspring of Paradise – a text strongly coloured by a young girl's fierce Afro-feminism and proudly Muslim convictions
Annie Gagiano - 2011-08-25
Untitled Document Offspring of Paradise Author: Safi Abdi Publiser: 1st Books Library Published:2003 ISBN: 9781410794093 This powerful novel by a Somali woman presently living in Dubai might be described as a combination of historical novel, sociological study and thriller – it is, moreover, a text that is strongly coloured by the fierce Afro-feminism and proudly Muslim convictions of its young protagonist, Hana, who as a little girl loses her home and most of her family to the eruption...

African Library: Caught in the storm
Annie Gagiano - 2011-07-01
Caught in the Storm Author: Seydou Badian Seydou Badian wrote the text under discussion in this issue of The African Library in 1954 – when his country, Mali, was still known as French Sudan – and composed it in French, the language of his colonial education. It was first titled Kany (after the young woman who is one of its leading characters) and later on, Sous L’orage. The edition used for the discussion here is the English translation by Marie-Thérèse Noiset,...

African Library: The Sinners
Annie Gagiano - 2011-04-26
Untitled Document The Sinners Author: Yusuf Idris Yusuf Idris is considered one of the great authors – particularly as a short story writer – in the Arabic literary world. Born in an Egyptian village, he became a doctor and later on a health inspector in the civil service; he drew on these experiences for his vivid, kindly, albeit ironic depictions of all classes of people and of rural societies as in this, his most famous short story. At 113 pages, it is really a novella, though...

African Library: Beneath the Lion’s Gaze by Ethiopian author Maaza Mengiste
Annie Gagiano - 2011-02-24
Untitled Document Beneath the Lion’s Gaze Author: Maaza Mengiste This recently published (2010) novel by an Ethiopian author re-envisions an earlier period of revolutionary activity in the more northern parts of our continent, viz the toppling in the early 1970s of the Emperor Haile Selassie, but also its terrible aftermath when the new military rulers, known as the Derg (a word in an ancient language meaning “committee”) unleashed what was known as the Red Terror on their own...

Merzak Allouache’s Bab el-Oued is interesting, balanced and complex
Annie Gagiano - 2011-01-11
Bab el-Oued Author: Merzak Allouache First published in French in 1995, Merzak Allouache’s novel Bab el-Oued (the name of a run-down working-class area of Algiers, the city in which Allouache grew up) was published in an English translation (by Angela M Brewer) in 1998. Allouache is best known as a highly rated and productive filmmaker; the novel Bab el-Oued is not a screenplay, but one of the very few texts in the literary world based on a previously created film. Allouache wrote the novel...

African Library: I Do Not Come to You by Chance
Annie Gagiano - 2010-10-28
I Do Not Come to You by Chance Author: Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani This highly entertaining and high-spirited novel by a young Nigerian author is the most recent co-winner of the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for Best First Book, Africa Region. Its main topic is a serious one, namely the well-known confidence trick of sending out e-mails with “desperate” appeals for immediate financial assistance to all too often gullible and mostly foreign recipients – appeals which also fraudulently...

Road to Europe a small but remarkable text
Annie Gagiano - 2010-09-01
Title: Road to Europe Author: Ferdinand Oyono Publisher: Three Continents Press Date of publication:1960 Pages:103 ISBN: 9780894105906 Even though Oyono’s first two novels, Houseboy (which appeared in French initially as Une Vie de Boy in 1956) and The Old Man and the Medal (originally titled Le Vieux Nègre et la Médaille, also 1956), are far more famous as early examples of ironic anti-colonial narratives, his third and final work, Road to Europe (originally Chemin D’Europe,...

The Afersata – An Ethiopian Novel valid and resonant
Annie Gagiano - 2010-06-30
Title: The Afersata – An Ethiopian NovelAuthor: Sahle SellassiePublisher: Heinemann Educational Date of publication: 1969 Pages: 288 ISBN: 0435900528 Sahle Sellassie, whose full name is Sahle Sellassie Berhane Mariam, has written novels in both Chaha and Amharic, in addition to several in English, such as The Afersata, a slim text that was published in the Heinemann African Writers Series in 1969, copyrighted 1968 to the author. Dedicated to Sellassie’s father, the...

Annie Gagiano reads Black Mamba Boy by Nadifa Mohamed (2010)
Annie Gagiano - 2010-05-03
Title: Black Mamba BoyAuthor: Nadifa MohamedPublisher: HarperCollins Publishers LtdDate of publication: 2010Format: SoftcoverPages: 288ISBN: 9780007315741Click here to order Black Mamba Boy from Kalahari.net. In this, Nadifa Mohamed’s first novel, she presents the text as a sort of autobiography by proxy of the narrator’s father’s wanderings, adventures and misadventures – as a Somali boy and later young man who is born in the vicinity of Hargeisa, but spends his early childhood...

The African Library: A Wreath for the Maidens
Annie Gagiano - 2010-03-01
A Wreath for the Maidens by John Munonye (1973) Awful events often produce very memorable literature (and other art) and the so-called Biafran War, a conflict that went on from about mid-1967 until January 1970 among Nigerians, was no exception. Brilliant texts such as Chinua Achebe’s short story collection Girls at war and other stories (1972), Wole Soyinka’s Season of Anomy (1974), Cyprian Ekwensi’s Survive the Peace (1976) and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s recent Half of a...

Delia Jarrett-Macauley: Moses, Citizen and Me
Annie Gagiano - 2010-01-13
Title: Moses, Citizen and MeAuthor: Delia Jarrett-MacauleyPublication date: 2005In a passage close to the end of this text the narrator (a woman who, like this novel’s author, grew up and lives in Britain but is of Sierra Leonean parentage) speculates about the home in Freetown in which she has been staying during an extended visit to her Uncle Moses, a photographer: We could fix the place up a bit and display the photographs. We could build the photography archive here and set aside space...

Amu Djoleto: Hurricane of Dust
Annie Gagiano - 2009-10-28
Title: Hurricane of DustAuthor: Amu DjoletoAmu Djoleto's Hurricane of Dust (first published by Longman in 1987 and reprinted in 1991) is a reminder that Ghana, nowadays politically stable and prosperous, all too recently went through a terrible period of political upheaval and repressive violence. An extract from the novel which vividly encapsulates the "flavour" of this time (roughly from the early seventies to the end of the eighties) occurs at the beginning of chapter four, describing...

Fatou Diome – The Belly of the Atlantic
Annie Gagiano - 2009-08-26
Title: The Belly of the Atlantic Author: Fatou Diome Publisher: Serpent's Tail Translator: Lulu Norman ISBN: 9781852429034 Publication date: September 2007 Pages: 185 Original language: French Click here to order your copy of The Belly of the Atlantic from kalahari.net. The quality of the narrative voice is central to this (first) novel by its Senegalese author. The Belly of the Atlantic was first published in French, in 2003, and the English translation (by Lulu Norman and Ros...

No facile moral binary between colonists and indigenes in José Eduardo Agualusa’s My Father’s Wives
Annie Gagiano - 2009-06-25
Title: My Father’s WivesAuthor: José Eduardo AgualusaPublisher: Arcadia BooksTranslator: Daniel HahnISBN: 9781905147786Publication date: June 2008Pages: 382 Click here to order your copy of My Father’s Wives from Kalahari.net. This fascinating novel by the Angolan author José Eduardo Agualusa was translated from the Portuguese original, As mulheres do meu pai (2007), by Daniel Hahn, appearing in English in 2008. It is Agualusa’s fourth novel, the author’s...

Ibrahim al-Koni's Gold Dust: of stray camels and hidden valleys
Annie Gagiano - 2009-05-07
Title: Gold DustAuthor: Ibrahim al-KoniTranslator: Elliott CollaPublisher: American University in Cairo PressISBN: 9789774161438Publication date: April 2008Pages: 171 Click on the book cover to order your copy of Gold Dust from Kalahari.net.Ibrahim al-Koni is an acclaimed writer in Arabic, the language in which this entry's text was first published as al-Tibr. The English translation is by Elliott Colla; he includes a brief Afterword (165-70) and a page of Notes. Al-Koni was born and grew up...

The African Library: The Purple Violet of Oshaantu
Annie Gagiano - 2009-03-05
This fairly short novel, the first published work by Andreas, appeared in 2001 as one of the "last batch" of the famed Heinemann African Writers Series. Plotwise, it tells of a sudden death, a funeral and its immediate aftermath. Around this stark-sounding outline the author weaves a dense evocation of the rural northern Namibian community within which these events occur. The narrative is also strongly and attractively coloured by the candid voice of an observant narrator and focaliser,...

Abdourahman A Waberi: The Land without Shadows (2005)
Annie Gagiano - 2008-12-19
Title: Land without ShadowsAuthor: Abdourahman A WaberiPublisher: University of Virginia PressTranslator: Jeanne GaraneISBN: 9780813925080Pages: 86Click here to purchase The Land without Shadows from kalahari.net now! Subtitled "Stories", this collection by the Djiboutian author (now based in France) could be described as a collage of images - sketches, tales, reports, evocations - of his native land (or rather, region, since some of the later pieces depict Somalia and give us a wider...

''A Mouth Sweeter than Salt wonderfully entertaining and unobtrusively instructive''
Annie Gagiano - 2008-10-29
A Mouth Sweeter than Salt: An African Memoir (2004)Author: Toyin FalolaFormat: Softcover Publisher: University of Michigan PressISBN: 9780472031320 Click here to purchase your copy from Kalahari.net.Toyin Falola is a renowned scholar - famous for his wide-ranging work as a historian of Africa. I break the pattern of introducing fictional texts in this column because Falola's childhood memoir is such an irresistible, vivid and significant piece of writing. While Falola narrates his own childhood...

The African Library: Beer in the Snooker Club (1964)
Annie Gagiano - 2008-09-04
This unusual novel was reissued in a New Amsterdam Paperback in 1989. It is the only known published work by its author, who committed suicide in 1968. Ghali’s life resembles that of his main character in many respects in terms of class position, location shifts and political ideas. The text concerns mainly the lives of a small group of Egyptian friends who belong to the international left wing of the time, but whose progressive political attitudes are complicated by their access (through...

Annie Gagiano on Going Home by Simão Kikamba (2005)
Annie Gagiano - 2008-06-25
Going Home attracted considerable attention when it was published (in South Africa, in 2005, by Kwela), winning the Herman Charles Bosman award for its author in 2006. What it measures and vividly portrays – the experiences of an African forced to flee from a country elsewhere on this continent where he has citizenship, but who faces persecution or life-threatening danger and who, after arduous journeying, seeks safety and a livelihood in South Africa – is so bitterly topical for re-displaced,...

Annie Gagiano on Legson Kayira’s The Detainee (1974)
Annie Gagiano - 2008-05-05
Legson Kayira was born (either in the late 1930s or early 1940s) to an extremely poor family in Nyasaland (now Malawi), a British Protectorate at that time, federated with North and South Rhodesia (postcolonial Zambia and Zimbabwe). Determined to better himself by getting a first-rate tertiary education, he set off to walk all the way to Egypt (which he eventually reached!) to take ship for the United States, having picked a college he wanted to attend. He made it to the US with the financial assistance...

Annie Gagiano reads Valerie Tagwira’s The Uncertainty of Hope
Annie Gagiano - 2008-03-03
Publisher: Weaver PressISBN: 9781779220639Format: SoftcoverPublication Date: 2007/3Pages: 368Click here to purchase The Uncertainty of Hope from kalahari.net now!I thought it would make an interesting juxtaposition of African Library entries to follow the previous piece, on Akare's account of Kenyan slum life in the seventies, with this discussion of a very recent novel engaging with (particularly) the survival struggles of two women friends who both live in the Jo’burg Lines area of Mbare...

Annie Gagiano on The Slums by Thomas Akare: One might describe it as a personalised sociological study, a literary version of reality TV
Annie Gagiano - 2008-01-08
Thomas Akare: The Slums 1981Heinemann International Literature & TextbooksISBN-13: 978-0435902414 A library does not only provide readers with copies of recently published texts, but also serves as an archive in which past publications remain accessible. It is with this idea in mind that Akare’s 1981 text was dusted off for discussion in the present column. There is (unfortunately, one might add!) nothing outdated about Akare’s delineation of African slum life – in this...

Leila Aboulela's The Translator: delicate and poignant
Annie Gagiano - 2007-10-31
Leila Aboulela: The TranslatorPublisher: HEINEMANNISBN: 9780435912079Format: Trade paperbackPages: 203Price: R232.95Click here to purchase your copy for Kalahari.net. This delicate, poignant account of the growth of a difficult but irresistible love commitment – between a recently widowed Sudanese woman who works as a translator of Arabic texts and a twice-divorced Scottish man, an academic specialising in Middle-Eastern history and politics – is itself a brilliant work of translation....

Engelse liefde
Paul Cilliers - 2007-10-03
On Chesil Beach Ian McEwan Jonathan Cape ISBN 978-0-224-08118-4 166 bladsye ’n Worsteling met die vraag: “Wat is liefde?” is een van die ewigdurende temas van die romankuns. Ian McEwan skryf gereeld en in detail daaroor. Dink maar aan Enduring Love en sy voorlaaste roman Saturday. Dié boek het my geweldig getref. Die predikamente van ’n hedendaagse mens, iemand wat bloot probeer om sinvol te lewe te midde van al die eise wat aan hom gestel word, is met insig...

Annie Gagiano on The Map of Love: The novel's basic premise about remarkably similar social and political parameters in the Egypt of ''then'' and ''now'' is persuasively and interestingly conveyed
Annie Gagiano - 2007-08-29
Ahdaf Soueif: The Map of Love (1999) As a map, Ahdaf Soueif's novel functions like a palimpsest – a document in layers of timeframes of which the most fully delineated "surface" is a period in Egypt at the end of the nineteenth to early twentieth centuries. Access to that period is gradually and chronologically built up in the text through readings and interpretations of diaries, letters and newspaper clippings (as well as interpretations of a number of significant, treasured...

Richard Powers, ’n naaswenner
Paul Cilliers - 2007-06-26
The Echo MakerRichard Powers451 ppWilliam HeinemannISBN 0-434-01632-2 Hoewel Richard Powers hier miskien nog nie so ’n groot leserspubliek het nie, kry hy lankal reeds ’n uitstekende ontvangs by die kritici. The Echo Maker is sy negende roman en was pas die naaswenner van die Pullitzer-prys vir letterkunde. (Julle sal dalk onthou dat die vorige boek waaroor ek dit gehad het, The Road van Cormack McCarthy, die wenner was – en wat ’n voortreflike boek was dit tog.) Powers...

Annie Gagiano calls Snakepit by Moses Isegawa ''a distinctly serious and consistent, worldly analysis of banalised horror''
Annie Gagiano - 2007-06-26
Moses IsegawaSnakepit Picador Africa, 2005Click here to buy this book from kalahari.net. In this, his second novel after Abyssinian Chronicles (2000), Moses Isegawa evokes life in Uganda during the Idi Amin period by employing the fairly straightforward style of the hardboiled thriller. His angle of observation is the privileged and precarious existence of Bat Katanga, a Cambridge-educated Ugandan of southern origin (as his surname emphasises) who returns to Uganda to seek employment. Bat is not...

Bleek maar briljante McCarthy
Paul Cilliers - 2007-05-29
The RoadCormac McCarthy Picador 2006ISBN 0-330-44755-9 241 bladsye Indien enigiemand Cormac McCarthy leer ken het deur die swak film wat gemaak is van sy roman All the Pretty Horses, moet hulle dit dadelik vergeet. McCarthy is een van die belangrikste lewende skrywers in die VSA. Die New York Times se paneel deskundiges het Blood Meridian aangewys as een van die vyf beste Amerikaanse romans van die afgelope 25 jaar en The Road het pas die Pulitzer-prys vir letterkunde gewen. McCarthy se tekste...

Oorweldigende Pynchon
Paul Cilliers - 2007-05-02
Against the DayThomas PynchonJonathan Cape 2006ISBN97 80224080958 1085 ppKlik hier om hierdie boek by Exclusive Books te koop. Laat ek my kaarte dadelik op die tafel sit: ek is ’n Pynchon fan. Ek het al sy goed gelees. Ek onthou hoe ek mateloos beïndruk was deur V toe ek dit in die vroeë tagtigs gelees het. Dit was snaaks en ernstig met ’n reikwydte wat my asem weggeslaan het. Daarna het ek vir maande gesukkel om Gravity’s Rainbow in die hande te kry, aangesien...

Everything Good Will Come: A brilliant and moving novel that immerses the reader from the start
Annie Gagiano - 2007-04-24
Everything Good Will Come (2005) Author: Sefi Atta Normal price: R165.95Publisher: Double StoreyISBN: 9781770130593Format: SoftcoverPages: 366Click here to buy this book from kalahari.net now. This brilliant, charming and moving novel immerses the reader from the start in the sights, sounds and smells of the teeming city of Lagos. The text functions like an unusual, subtle kind of Bildungsroman in which the personal, moral, intellectual and political growth of the main character is a process...

Murambi, The Book of Bones, one of the twentieth century’s one hundred most significant African texts
Annie Gagiano - 2007-03-07
Murambi, The Book of BonesBoubacar Boris DiopR183.95ISBN: 9780253218520Softcover181 pages First written and published in French (in 2000) and with the English translation by Fiona McLaughlin published in 2006, this text is a major contribution to the body of African writing. It is one of a small group of texts by ten African novelists who in 1998, four years after the 1994 genocide, were given the opportunity of visiting Rwanda in order to write about it. The idea came from a Chadian journalist,...

Travels in the Scriptorium: ’n metafiksionele spel
Paul Cilliers - 2007-03-07
Travels in the Scriptorium Paul Auster Faber and Faber ISBN 0-571-23255-8 130 pp Klik hier en koop Travels in the Scriptorium nou. Klik hier om Travels in the Scriptorium te wen! Kompetisie sluit 31 Mei 2007. ’n Jaar of wat gelede het die New York Times vir ’n honderd letterkundiges (skrywers en kritici) gevra om die beste Amerikaanse roman van die afgelope 25 jaar aan te wys. Die wenner, Beloved van Toni Morrison, was miskien iets van ’n verrassing, maar die top...

''In the Country of Men is a skilfully constructed political exposé''
Annie Gagiano - 2007-01-29
In the Country of MenAuthor: Hisham Matar Format: Hardcover ISBN: 9780670916399 Published by: Penguin/ Viking, 2006Click here to purchase your copy from Kalahari.net. As he recalls leaving the country of his birth, the adult narrator of this complex novel recalls two perspectives on this land from which he had been sent away in his childhood: the first contains the harrowing, unanswerable questions: “Why did we have so much respect for blood? Why is the sun so unforgiving?”...

Neighbours – The Story of a Murder by Lília Momplé
Annie Gagiano - 2006-10-31
Neighbours – The Story of a Murder by Lília Momplé was first published in 1995; translated from Portuguese by Richard Bartlett and Isaura de Oliveira, and published in 2001 by Heinemann in the African Writers’ Series. In this skilfully constructed novel the author (a former president of the Mozambican Writers’ Association) gives us a glimpse of the cultural variedness of this society: a wealthy but unhappy Indian Muslim family; a struggling indigenous couple...

Neyla written by Kossi Komla-Ebri
Annie Gagiano - 2006-07-13
Neyla (2004, translated into English and edited by Peter N Pedroni) was first published in Italian, in 2002, and is the first novel by its Togolese author, now a naturalised Italian citizen practising his profession as a surgeon in Italy. Both poignant and naïve, the brief text appears to serve as something of an act of atonement towards the woman – or the type of woman – whose name serves as the novel’s title. The text does nevertheless step into many of the pitfalls inevitably...

Dog Days - An Animal Chronicle written by Patrice Nganang
Annie Gagiano - 2006-06-29
The highly sophisticated narrator of this novel, which is a 2006 translation by Amy Baram Reid of the Cameroonian author's French original, is a dog named Mboudjak. The setting of the text is the sous-quartiers (the poorer quarters) of Yaoundé, the Cameroonian capital, where Mboudjak lives with his owner Massa Yo, observing and describing the city's human and canine occupants (among others). Although he opens his narrative with the modest declaration, "I am a dog" (7), Mboudjak is...


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