Fiction

image What about Meera?

By Tolu Akinwole


  • Title: What about Meera
  • Author: Z P Dala
  • Publisher: Umuzi
  • Number of pages: 256
  • Year of publication: 2015
  • Category: Fiction

What about Meera is not a question; it is a fervent quest for the place of the socially marginalised in the scheme of things. What about Meera is not a question; it is a witty record of the palpitations of broken hearts and broken dreams. What about Meera is not a question; it is a determined unearthing of buried sherds, tracing the quotidian struggles of the peasant Indians of Tongaat (‘in rich detail’, the blurb adds). Z P Dala’s debut offering follows the escape of a young, South African woman of Indian descent from Durban to Dublin in search of life and love. More…

image The Naguib Mahfouz Reader: Portrait of a Novelist as a Historian

By Emeka Ugwu


  • Title: The Naguib Mahfouz Reader
  • Editor: Denys Johnson-Davies
  • Publisher: The American University in Cairo Press
  • Number of pages: 327
  • Year of publication: 2016
  • Category: Fiction and Autobiography

‘You can’t understand Egypt without Mahfouz – without his characters, with whom every reader, Arab or not, can identify’. – Tahar Ben Jelloun

‘The older distinction between fiction and history [must] give place to the recognition that we can only know the actual by contrasting it with or likening it to the imaginable’. – Hayden White

Edited by Denys Johnson-Davies, whom the cultural critic and public intellectual Edward Said described as ‘the leading Arabic-English translator of our time’, The Naguib Mahfouz Reader starts an unwitting reader out on a heady journey straight into the heart of modern Egypt. It is a book that houses English translations of a small selection of short stories, excerpts of novels and autobiographical works by the Egyptian Nobel Laureate, Naguib Mahfouz. The collection showcases writings that span six decades, from 1944 to 2004. More…

image Of the Crescent and the Crown

By Tolu Akinwole


  • Title: The Televangelist
  • Author: Ibrahim Essa
  • Translator: Jonathan Wright
  • Publisher: Hoopoe
  • Number of pages: 483
  • Year of publication: 2016
  • Category: Fiction

In keeping with the need, in this age, for thorough intellectual scrutiny of dearly held beliefs, Ibrahim Essa deploys his novel, The Televangelist, as a means of examining and contesting the hegemony of Islamic ideology in twenty-first-century Egypt. Crammed into the 483-paged novel is a fusion of Islamic theology and socio-political analysis with a double dose of wit, as expected of the satire that it is. Engaging the reader on these levels, Essa lays out his own thesis on religion and the State’s involvement in it. More…

image Sweet Medicine: On How to Beat the Odds as a Young Woman in Collapsed Zimbabwe

By Adaudo Anyiam-Osigwe


  • Title: Sweet Medicine
  • Author: Panashe Chigumadzi
  • Publisher: BlackBird Books
  • Number of pages: 210
  • Year of publication: 2015
  • Category: Fiction

Sweet Medicine may be regarded as a coming-of-age story, in as much as it is the story of a young woman’s acknowledgement of the odds against her, the desperation of living under the spirit-destroying burden of a collapsed modern Zimbabwe, and her decision and subsequent actions to overcome those odds. More…

image A Review of Hiding in Plain Sight

By Agatha Aduro


  • Title: Hiding in Plain Sight
  • Author: Nuruddin Farah
  • Publisher: Kwani Trust
  • Number of pages: 322
  • Year of publication: 2015
  • Category: Fiction

A dream, a premonition and an al-Shabaab attack open Nuruddin Farah’s novel, Hiding in Plain Sight. The book – the author’s twelfth novel – is mostly set in Nairobi and tells the story of the death of Aar, a UN staff who is murdered in Mogadiscio, and how his family and loved ones cope with the loss. More…

image The Fishermen, a Nationalist Reading

By Kwabena Agyare Yeboah


  • Title: The Fishermen
  • Author: Chigozie Obioma
  • Publisher: Cassava Republic Press
  • Number of pages: 301
  • Year of publication: 2015
  • Category: Fiction

One day in the lives of four brothers, the eldest, Ikenna, comes home with an announcement stuck in his pocket. He assembles the rest of his brothers. His voice clean and shiny, he says to them that they would become fishermen. They would ply their trade in the Omi-Ala River. The river has seen great years. Once the source of life for the early settlers of Akure, the combined effect of modernity and time has rendered it useless, ‘A cradle besmeared’ (p 21). At the riverbank, they meet Abulu, a man who is equally gifted with seeing and insanity. His prophecy will bind and break the brothers. Their career will last nearly six weeks but they will bear the name – The Fishermen – for life. More…

image Hustling for Discourse: Between Sociology, Psychology and Literature

By Tomiwa Ilori


  • Title: The Peculiars
  • Author: Jen Thorpe
  • Publisher: Penguin Random House South Africa (Pty) Ltd
  • Number of pages: 243
  • Year of publication: 2016
  • Category: Fiction

The vocabulary of psychiatry became expanded when psychoanalysis and its study occurred as social challenge then later as social experiment. It has since become almost impossible to view mental well-being in isolation from other social attitudes. One of these attitudes considers those afflicted with mental illness as having their own way of perceiving the world, a way that is more interesting than the competing belief that organised society is the real world. More…

image Piggy Boy’s Blues: Why Memories Wear Make-up

By Tinuke Adeyi


  • Title: Piggy Boy’s Blues
  • Author: Nakhane Touré
  • Publisher: BlackBird Books
  • Number of pages: 156
  • Year of publication: 2015
  • Category: Fiction

‘The novel is an event in consciousness. Our aim isn’t to copy actuality, but to modify and recreate our sense of it. The novelist is inviting the reader to watch a performance in his own brain’. – George Buchanan

There are no perfect moments, the saying goes, only perfect memories. But what is a perfect memory? Do humans actually remember events exactly as they happened or do they simply recreate emotions that past events elicited? Can the entities we call memories be ‘perfect’ in being true to actual events or are they no more than lies we tell ourselves so we do not catch an honest whiff of our own smells? Have we merely become perfect at recreating the emotions we want attached to memories? More…

image The Many Shades of Water

By Tolu Akinwole


  • Title: Water: New Short Fiction from Africa
  • Editors: Nick Mulgrew and Karina Szczurek
  • Publisher: Short Story Day Africa
  • Number of pages: 272
  • Year of publication: 2015
  • Category: Fiction

‘He sat by Lake Retba knowing its every shift of colour. Mauve, lavender-pink at dusk, magenta at dawn and crayon-pink during the day’. – Efemia Chela, ‘The Lake Retba Murder’ (p 24)

The twenty-one stories that make up Water: New Short Fiction from Africa acquit themselves as articulate contributions to the (re-)negotiation of a place of pride for African literature in English, each of the stories deftly exploiting the complex configuration of the thematic focus of the anthology. These twenty-one brilliant writers attempt to problematise the seemingly bland, colourless liquid that nurtures life, to discover within its essence the many shades and hues of the turbulent existence of the humans it nurtures. The stories in this volume engage the reader on many levels. The reader travels from the familiar present to the blurry past and even to the inaccessible possible-future. This fine blend makes for an enjoyable voyage through the entire landscape of the African story. More…

image A Review of Zakes Mda’s Little Suns

By Troy Onyango


  • Title: Little Suns
  • Author: Zakes Mda
  • Publisher: Umuzi
  • Number of pages: 269
  • Year of publication: 2015
  • Category: Fiction

‘There’s a new sun every day. It rises in the east and crawls across the sky until it hides itself behind those mountains in the west’ – Malangana

History and love gel incredibly in Zakes Mda’s latest novel, Little Suns. It is an extraordinary tale of love between Malangana (literally translates as ‘Little Suns’) and Mthwakazi. Malangana is an amaMpondomise man who apart from grooming the king’s horse is also the king’s translator and adviser. He is the king’s half-brother from a smaller house. Mthwakazi is a woman from the abaThwa community who serves as a nurse to the queen. Zakes Mda narrates the story of a love that is gained and lost in a rather pointless war, like all wars, over the span of more than twenty years (1880–1904). More…