Fiction

image Identity and Language in When We Speak of Nothing

By Adaudo Anyiam-Osigwe


  • Title: When We Speak of Nothing
  • Author: Olumide Popoola
  • Publisher: Cassava Republic Press
  • Number of pages: 256
  • Year of publication: 2017
  • Category: Fiction

The one word which comes to mind on reading Olumide Popoola’s When We Speak of Nothing is daring. It is a daring novel, without inhibitions in terms of language and its portrayal of identity. The novel – set in London, United Kingdom, and Port Harcourt, Nigeria – is a bildungsroman of the two teenage protagonists, Abu and Karl, on the verge of eighteen, questioning and seeking out wholeness and authenticity in life and, just as important, a place in the world where they can live out this authenticity. Karl lays this bare in an honest conversation with his mother when he says, ‘There is no wholeness. Nowhere I really am…I was not here. I didn’t exist’. More…

image Suspect Sojourns: Time as Culprit

By Tomiwa Ilori 


  • Title: The Time-Travels of the Man Who Sold Pickles and Sweets
  • Author: Khairy Shalaby
  • Translator: Michael Cooperson
  • Publisher: Hoopoe
  • Number of pages: 327
  • Year of publication: 2016
  • Category: Fiction

The Time-Travels of the Man Who Sold Pickles and Sweets is set across time. From ancient Egypt till the late 20th century, Egyptian history is served through the use of time travels, catapulting the reader to and from different points in time. Ibn Shalaby, the protagonist, is a time traveller who, with his quaint briefcase, sets out on invitations from past Caliphs and meets with icons of Egypt’s past at different points in his travels. More…

image How It Happened: A Review of The Book of Memory

By Kemi Falodun


  • Title: The Book of Memory
  • Author: Petina Gappah
  • Publisher: Cassava Republic Press
  • Number of pages: 311
  • Year of publication: 2016
  • Category: Fiction

‘Blessed are the forgetful, for they get the better even of their blunders’, wrote Friedrich Nietzsche. For some people, forgetting is a defense mechanism against unwanted memories, a way to avoid pain: the one they were subjected to, the one they caused others, or both. For others, being involved in different activities may suppress, or at least help them cope with those unwanted memories. But what recourse is there for one who is imprisoned and has nothing more than silence, time and memories? How does such a one run from their past? More…

image The Longing of the Dervish Served on a Platter of Love and Revenge

By Agatha Aduro


  • Title: The Longing of the Dervish
  • Author: Hammour Ziada
  • Translator: Jonathan Wright
  • Publisher: Hoopoe
  • Number of pages: 297
  • Year of publication: 2016
  • Category: Fiction

What happens when you put a freed slave with strong leanings towards Jihadism and an impressionable, young, Christian nun, filled with a zeal to convert ‘African barbarians’, together in the midst of a Sudan that is embroiled in politico-religious turbulence? The result is what forms the core of The Longing of the Dervish, a novel by Hammour Ziada that in its Arabic original won the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature in 2014. More…

image Striking an Oasis: A Review of A Gecko’s Farewell

By Kemi Falodun


  • Title: A Gecko’s Farewell
  • Author: Maik Nwosu
  • Publisher: Parrésia Publishers Ltd
  • Number of pages: 256
  • Year of publication: 2016
  • Category: Fiction

There have been different narratives dealing with the themes of migration, displacement and home by many African writers. However, Maik Nwosu’s ability to weave different worlds into this novel makes A Gecko’s Farewell an unusual read. ‘A Gecko’s Farewell’ is also the title of an essay and the personal narrative of Mzilikazi, one of the three central characters of this novel and a core member of the Gecko X organisation. Etiaba and Nadia are the other two. These three young Africans, who are on different paths of struggle and discovery, meet on the internet via a platform created for Africans to tell their own stories. In Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanah, Ifemelu creates a community on the blogosphere for people with similar experiences. Etiaba does something similar, Gecko X. The reader will later learn, as the story progresses, how the lives of these three characters intersect. More…

image A Toss between Loss and Love in the Spirit of Time

By Su’eddie Vershima Agema


  • Title: A Rare Blue Bird Flies with Me
  • Author: Youssef Fadel
  • Translator: Jonathan Smolin
  • Publisher: Hoopoe
  • Number of pages: 235
  • Year of publication: 2016
  • Category: Fiction

Youssef Fadel’s A Rare Blue Bird Flies with Me is a postcolonial novel and part of a prison literature set in the period of Moroccan history known as the Years of Lead (1961–1999), the reign of King Hassan II. It is the second part of a trilogy that explores that country’s history and culture during the ‘70s and ‘80s. The novel covers a season of imprisonments, maltreatment and murder in Morocco, which was the aftermath of the 1971 and 1972 coups against King Hassan II. More…

image Surviving the Times

By Emeka Ugwu


  • Title: Grace and Other Stories
  • Author: Bongani Sibanda
  • Publisher: Weaver Press
  • Number of pages: 92
  • Year of publication: 2016
  • Category: Fiction

‘An eye for an eye and an ear for an ear may not be adequate in our circumstances. We might very well demand two ears for one ear and two eyes for one eye’. – Robert Mugabe

‘They don’t care if people die. For the sake of political power the government is willing to sacrifice the lives of thousands. The government is starving areas that voted for the opposition in recent elections. It is the work of devils’. – Pius Ncube

Bongani Sibanda’’s debut collection of short stories, Grace and Other Stories, opens as we meet Mlungisi, a young Zimbabwean migrant, who has just returned home on a visit for the first time in a decade. Meeting Mlungisi, the Political Science student at a university in South Africa, we come to learn that his Shona father married his Ndebele mother, who was just sixteen at the time, only to later divorce and throw her out on the streets. With his title story, ‘‘Grace’, Sibanda begins to thread the needle with stories of survival in Matabeleland. More…

image The Real-Life Sangoma and the Star Child

By Agbonmire Ifeh


  • Title: Nwelezelanga: The Star Child
  • Author: Unathi Magubeni
  • Publisher: BlackBird Books
  • Number of pages: 129
  • Year of publication: 2016
  • Category: Fiction

Nwelezelanga: The Star Child is the testament to a drastic career change. Information gleaned from the author’s biography reveals that the author left the corporate world to become a sangoma and trainee herbalist, and the book could be read as an explanation for his choice. It is also public relations for his new job. Written in the third person, the book is divided into three parts. Taken as a novel, it would comfortably fall into the genre of magical realism, but Nwelezelanga: The Star Child really is a mystical and philosophical book. The narrative is starkly framed in terms of darkness versus light. More…

image The Imaginativeness and Functionality of African Oral Literature

By Tọ́pẹ́ Salaudeen-Adégòkè


  • Title: Who Told the Most Incredible Story?
  • Author: Naana J E S Opoku-Agyemang
  • Publisher: Afram Publishers (Ghana) Limited
  • Number of pages: 619 (5 Vols: Vol 1, 113pp; Vol 2, 121pp; Vol 3, 128pp; Vol 4, 122pp; Vol 5, 135pp)
  • Year of publication: 2015
  • Category: Fiction

‘“Fantasy” is the natural bedrock of all African folktales. In other words, there is no African oral narrative, including folktales, both “fictional” and “non-fictional”, that is not couched in varying degrees of fantasy’, writes Ademola Dasylva in his monograph, Classificatory Paradigms in African Oral Narrative (p 14). It is often said that childlike truths are best expressed in a childlike manner, and fantasy is a sure means of perpetuating childlike truths. Fantasy allows free range for the imagination of oral artists and their listeners. More…

image And after Many Reviews

By Dami Ajayi


  • Title: And after Many Days
  • Author: Jowhor Ile
  • Publisher: Kachifo Limited
  • Number of pages: 287
  • Year of publication: 2016
  • Category: Fiction

Jowhor Ile’s debut novel, And after Many Days, has been panned by some readers and critics. More…