Fiction

image Better than Anything: Sally Andrew’s Story of Love and Food

By Vuyo Mzini


  • Title: Death on the Limpopo
  • Author: Sally Andrew
  • Publisher: Umuzi
  • Number of pages: 414
  • Year of publication: 2019
  • Category: Fiction

The first verse of the duet between renowned songsters Natalie Cole and Diana Krall, titled ‘Better than Anything’, lists food items that are good but that do not quite measure up to the feeling of being in love. Alternating each line of the song, they sing:

Cole: Better than cream cheese and bagels, better than honey on bread.
Krall: Better than champagne and pretzels, better than breakfast in bed.
Cole: Better than chilli rellenos, better than chocolate eclairs.
Krall: Better than hot house tomatoes, better than fresh Bartlett pears.
Cole: Better than dining à la carte –
Krall: Or simply gastronomic art.
Together: Better than anything except being in love. More…

image Lady Na Master: A Review of Makwala, E E Sule’s Novel of Complexities

By Vuyo Mzini


  • Title: Makwala
  • Author: E E Sule
  • Publisher: Parrésia Publishers Ltd
  • Number of pages: 326
  • Year of publication: 2018
  • Category: Fiction

In a 2013 interview on YouTube with Commonwealth Writers, as part of the publicity for his winning the Commonwealth Book Prize for the Africa region, E E Sule describes the inspiration for his 2012 debut novel, Sterile Sky, as the traumatic background in which he grew up in Kano City at a time of poverty and religious violence:

I keep remembering, in a very dramatic way, in fact it kept coming to me as a nightmare, that [my family and I] were hearing the sounds of death around us.

More…

image Of Tragedy and Comedy: A Review of Youssef Fadel’s A Beautiful White Cat Walks with Me

By Nureni Ibrahim 


  • Title: A Beautiful White Cat Walks with Me
  • Author: Youssef Fadel
  • Translator: Alexander E Elinson
  • Publisher: Hoopoe
  • Number of pages: 220
  • Year of publication: 2016
  • Category: Fiction

‘The production and consumption of text and discourse serve particular purposes. Apart from aesthetic ones, which are studied in poetics and stylistics, texts represent social values and traditions and relate to ideological positions [which] originate in extra-textual structures of reality and society’. – The Taming of the Text, Willie Van Peer

It goes without saying that the discourse of literature cannot be divorced from the discourse of the ideological constructs that shape or instruct the writer’s art. Every literary work is an attempt or a medium of expressing the socio-political and historical challenges of the society. In the discussion of North African literature, Sonallah Ibrahim, Waguih Ghali, Miral al-Tahawy, Tawfiq al-Hakim and Youssef Fadel are writers who reflect the social and political conditions of society in artistic works. In this regard, A Beautiful White Cat Walks with Me, written by Casablanca-native and novelist Youssef Fadel, could be read as illuminating the inhumanity of the war between Morocco and Western Sahara. More…

image Nigerium: An Inevitable End

By Munah Nicola Tarpeh


  • Title: We Won’t Fade into Darkness
  • Author: T J Benson 
  • Publisher: Parrésia Publishers Ltd
  • Number of pages: 138
  • Year of publication: 2018
  • Category: Fiction

‘Gone are the days when people set up their own business for personal gain and profit, the business of a dying world is survival. Now we all work to save our nation from extinction’.

We Won’t Fade into Darkness is a dark, haunting collection of short stories about a post-apocalyptic Nigeria, where the air is impregnated with a poisonous gas called Nigerium that causes sperm cells to rot and kills people. It is a place so bleak, so disaster-struck that people are reduced to the most basic versions of themselves, with the instincts for self-preservation, sex, hunger, the desire to wander and death dictating the terms of existence. More…

image Identity in Fishere’s Embrace on Brooklyn Bridge

By Ofuonyeadi Chukwudumebi Mercy


  • Title: Embrace on Brooklyn Bridge
  • Author: Ezzedine C Fishere
  • Translator: John Peate
  • Publisher: Hoopoe
  • Number of pages: 163
  • Year of publication: 2017
  • Category: Fiction

Embrace on Brooklyn Bridge is beautifully told. It opens on the eve of Salma’s twenty-first birthday dinner. Her grandfather, Professor Darwish, an academic in the US, has spent two weeks planning the event and inviting friends from far and wide to help mark it. He also wants to use the occasion to explain why he has suddenly retired from the university, after twenty-five years, and why he has sold his house. Although an Egyptian by birth, he thinks little of his culture and its fanatics, preferring life in the US. To him, it is insane for anyone to compare the two countries. More…

image Fragments We Can Barely Piece Together

By Timi Odueso


  • Title: Cigarette Number Seven
  • Author: Donia Kamal
  • Translator: Nariman Youssef
  • Publisher: Hoopoe
  • Number of pages: 191
  • Year of publication: 2018
  • Category: Fiction

‘Nothing lies between us and happiness but the demons that lie between us’. – Naguib Mahfouz

Translated into English by Nariman Youssef, Cigarette Number Seven is set in Cairo and alternates between the past and the present. Although it is largely centred on the events of the Egyptian revolution in early 2011, it employs the use of flashback to highlight the journey of the protagonist and how she finds herself. More…

image The Girl Who Refused to Inherit Her Mother’s Silence

By Ayodele Ibiyemi 


  • Title: The Open Door
  • Author: Latifa al-Zayyat
  • Translator: Marilyn Booth
  • Publisher: Hoopoe
  • Number of pages: 383
  • Year of publication: 2017
  • Category: Fiction

The Open Door begins with a protest by young Egyptians against the monarchy in which Mahmud Sulayman is injured. His parents are apprehensive but proud of his actions. His sister, Layla, is excited and announces to her school friends that, ‘The English got him. They hit him because he is a nationalist. Because he is a hero’ (p 7). However, when another protest breaks out and she, too, is moved to participate, her scandalised father beats her while her mother laments that she has brought shame on the family. More…

image Who Is to Blame?

By Omotola Otubela


  • Title: Bled Dry
  • Author: Abdelilah Hamdouchi
  • Translator: Benjamin Smith
  • Publisher: Hoopoe
  • Number of pages: 242
  • Year of publication: 2017
  • Category: Fiction

In Abdelilah Hamdouchi’s Bled Dry, everyone is a suspect. Born in Meknes, Morocco, Abdelilah Hamdouchi is one of the first writers of police fiction in the Arabic language. Set in Casablanca, Morocco, Bled Dry was originally written in Arabic before it was translated into English by Benjamin Smith. Unlike the author’s previous books – which touched on issues surrounding migration and manipulations in international trade, Whitefly (2016), and false conviction and police brutality, The Final Bet (2016)Bled Dry digs into the minds as well as the actions and inaction of people who live in the slums of Casablanca. Here, the notion that every individual is a product of the society in which they live is effectively scrutinised. More…

image Tales of the African Experience

By Nureni Ibrahim 


  • Title: The Sea Has Drowned the Fish
  • Editors: Mamle Kabu and Martin Egblewogbe
  • Publisher: Techmate Publishers and Writers Project of Ghana
  • Number of pages: 257
  • Year of publication: 2018
  • Category: Fiction

The Sea Has Drowned the Fish is an anthology of short stories by budding and established African writers. It is the output of the Writers Project of Ghana and has some breathtaking works from familiar names such as Mary Ashun, Yewande Omotoso and Eghosa Imasuen. The writers explore a range of themes, including African culture, racial discrimination, apartheid, land alienation, political disillusionment, class struggle, love, homosexuality, sexual harassment and cultural displacement. More…

image Cutting Culture Off: A Review of Mary Karooro Okurut’s The Switch

By Timi Odueso


  • Title: The Switch
  • Author: Mary Karooro Okurut
  • Publisher: FEMRITE Publications Limited
  • Number of pages: 211
  • Year of publication: 2016
  • Category: Fiction

‘Culture can be the worst form of imprisonment’. – Dr Medard

Mary Karooro Okurut’s The Switch contains numerous exhilarating elements but first and foremost is the intensity and intrigue the first few pages offer. The suspense, right from the first few pages, is reminiscent of a thriller novel. Readers will feel the same impending sense of danger they feel in reading prolific thriller writers like James Patterson, John Grisham or Nora Roberts, and although The Switch is not a crime thriller or a mystery novel per se, it still, heavily so, employs elements from those sub-genres and that gives it a unique style. In fact, the style of writing and the elements involved are so unusual for books with the same or similar themes as The Switch that the effect is pleasantly surprising. More…