Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

The best African books

The best African books

 

To celebrate Africa Day, we asked our Books LIVE community what their favourite African books were.

You can suggest contemporary books or classics, fiction or non-fiction. The list is a work in progress. If you feel something is missing, let us know on Twitter @BooksLIVESA or Facebook.com/BooksLIVESA.

Without further ado, the best African books – as chosen by you!
 
 
Do Not Go GentleDo Not Go Gentle by Futhi Ntshingila
Book homepage
EAN: 9781920590505
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sweet MedicineSweet Medicine by Panashe Chigumadzi
EAN: 9781928337126
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

MalikhanyeMalikhanye by Mxolisi Nyezwa
Book homepage
EAN: 9780958491594
Find this book with BOOK Finder!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Born on a TuesdayBorn on a Tuesday by Elnathan John
EAN: 9781911115021
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Season of Crimson BlossomsSeason of Crimson Blossoms by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim
Book homepage
EAN: 9781911115007
Find this book with BOOK Finder!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Easy Motion TouristEasy Motion Tourist by Leye Adenle
EAN: 9781911115069
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Lazarus EffectThe Lazarus Effect by H J Golakai
Book homepage
EAN: 9780795703195
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Half of a Yellow Sun Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Book homepage
EAN: 9780007200283
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Say You're One of ThemSay You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan
Book homepage
EAN: 9780349120645
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

In Corner BIn Corner B by Es’kia Mphahlele
EAN: 9780143106029
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Lost and Found in JohannesburgLost and Found in Johannesburg by Mark Gevisser
Book homepage
EAN: 9781868425884
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

We Need New NamesWe Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
EAN: 9780099581888
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Portrait with KeysPortrait with Keys: Joburg and what-what by Ivan Vladislavic
Book homepage
EAN: 9781415200209
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Nervous ConditionsNervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
EAN: 9780954702335
Find this book with BOOK Finder!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Purple HibiscusPurple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Book homepage
EAN: 9780007189885
Find this book with BOOK Finder!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

UnimportanceUnimportance by Thando Mgqolozana
Book homepage
EAN: 9781431409525
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The ReactiveThe Reactive by Masande Ntshanga
Book homepage
EAN: 9781415207192
Find this book with BOOK Finder!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
African DelightsAfrican Delights by Siphiwo Mahala
Book homepage
EAN: 9781431402519
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Half of a Yellow Sun Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Book homepage
EAN: 9780007200283
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Under the Udala TreesUnder the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta
Book homepage
EAN: 9781847088369
Find this book with BOOK Finder!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Book of MemoryThe Book of Memory by Petina Gappah
Book homepage
EAN: 9780571249626
Find this book with BOOK Finder!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
AffluenzaAffluenza by Niq Mhlongo
Book homepage
EAN: 9780795706967
Find this book with BOOK Finder!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

What Will People SayWhat Will People Say by Rehana Rossouw
Book homepage
EAN: 9781431420247
Find this book with BOOK Finder!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The FishermenThe Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma
EAN: 9780957548862
Find this book with BOOK Finder!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Woman Next DoorThe Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
EAN: 9781784740344
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

EfuruEfuru by Flora Nwapa
EAN: 9780435900267
Find this book with BOOK Finder!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Second Class CitizenSecond Class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta
EAN: 9780807610664
Find this book with BOOK Finder!

'A damn fine collection of stories!' Tjieng Tjang Tjerries by Jolyn Phillips launched at The Book Lounge

Jolyn Phillips

 
Tjieng Tjang Tjerries by Jolyn Phillips is “something that has not been done before,” said Mervyn Sloman of The Book Lounge, where the book was launched to a full house recently.

Many of the guests had come from Gansbaai by taxi to celebrate Phillips’s success. Tjieng Tjang Tjerries is a remarkable book that reflects something different in the South African literary canon, bringing South African readers a unique new literary flavour.

Meg Vandermerwe and Jolyn PhillipsTjieng Tjang Tjerries and other storiesSloman said the power of Tjieng Tjang Tjerries went beyond the use of language and Phillips’ representation of the Gansbaai’s fishing community. The author, who is a Mandela Rhodes scholar, was joined in a fascinating conversation with Meg Vandermerwe, who supervised her MA in Creative Writing at the University of the Western Cape.

Vandermerwe spoke about the joy of watching as “the student surpasses the teacher”.

“Many things make this a damn fine collection of short stories!” she said. “In particular, one of the outstanding and original points is Jolyn’s voice. There’s more than just the account of an underrepresented facet of society, there is also polylingualism operating where a fusion of English and Afrikaans occurs. The stories are written in English, but contains a lot of Afrikaans. The voice carries with it the timbre and melody of Afrikaans.”

Jolyn’s mother tongue is Afrikaans, but she wanted in the stories to introduce her home and people’s lives, as captured in the way they speak. The author spoke about how music and translation are vibrant aspects of her life. “Something about the way people speak is more than just the words. I wanted the rhythm to come through. As I wrote, I sounded it out loud, keeping words in that enabled a kind of cultural translation,” she said.

For Phillips, the aim is to carry the culture and feelings of her people into English. She said, “I was trying to translate the people, rather than the language.” She also noted the curious experience of being somebody who appeared in the lives of her characters who came knocking on her door at 2 AM to rouse her to write!

How does Phillips explain memory? She quoted Aristotle, who said, “Memories are the scribe of the soul.”

“My memory was doing the writing for me,” she said. “This book is a collection of my soul, who I am as a human being, and how I connect to the people I come from.

“Landscape and language are the melody of the book, but the characters defined themselves in the stories.”

Tjieng Tjang TjerriesTjieng Tjang Tjerries

 

Liesl Jobson (@LieslJobson) tweeted live from the event:


 

 
Facebook album:


 

Book details

Bellagio Center Residency Award winners include Lauren Beukes, Tsitsi Dangarembga and Victor Ehikhamenor

Bellagio Center Residency Award winners include Lauren Beukes, Tsitsi Dangarembga and Victor Ehighale Ehikhamenor

 
Alert! The Africa Centre has announced the five artists selected by The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center as part of its 2015 Artists In Residency Programme.

Books LIVE congratulates the three writers on the list: Lauren Beukes, Tsitsi Dangarembga and Victor Ehighale Ehikhamenor.

Dangarembga is the author of the critically acclaimed novels and The Book of Not and Nervous Conditions, but is also a filmmaker. Late last year Umuzi announced that she will be producing a film adaptation of Imran Garda’s novel The Thunder That Roars.

Victor Ehikhamenor is an award winning visual artist, writer and photographer based in Nigeria and the United States. He was the cover designer for Stranger, a recently released debut poetry collection by Sihle Ntuli.

Excuse Me!Nervous ConditionsBroken Monsters

 

The Africa Centre received a record 423 complete applications from 40 countries for its Artists In Residency programme in 2015, from South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Zimbabwe, as well as Algeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Madagascar, Rwanda and Sudan. 68 artists were shortlisted in December.

The Africa Centre announced the winners of its Artists In Residency Programme in February, including writers Masande Ntshanga from South Africa and Nana Oforiatta Ayim from Ghana.

But after receiving a large number of applications, across artistic disciplines, The Africa Centre also shortlisted 24 artists on behalf of the Bellagio Center.

Based on their specific interests, the following artists have been selected:

  • Lauren Beukes (author, South Africa)
  • Tsitsi Dangarembga (author and filmmaker, Zimbabwe)
  • Victor Ehighale Ehikhamenor (author and visual artist, Nigeria)
  • Yared Zeleke (filmmaker, Ethiopia)
  • Fathy Adly Salama (performing artist, Egypt)

 

The addition of these five artists mean a total to 14 have been accepted into nine different residencies around the world as part of the 2015 Artists In Residency programme.

The Africa Centre will release more information about the artists over the next couple of weeks. The call for 2016 applications will go out in the second half of the year.

 
Related stories:

Book details

2016 Caine Prize for African Writing shortlist announced

2016 Caine Prize for African Writing judging panel announced
Lusaka Punk and Other StoriesThe Gonjon Pin and Other Stories10 Years of the Caine Prize for African WritingA Memory This Size and Other StoriesThe Caine Prize Anthology 2009: Work in Progress and Other Stories

 

Alert! The shortlist for the 2016 Caine Prize for African Writing has been announced.

The 2016 shortlist includes a former Caine Prize winner – Tope Folarin – and a former regional winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize – Lesley Nneka Arimah.

Incredible JourneyTwo of the stories come from the 2015 Short Sharp Stories anthology, Incredible Journey: Stories That Move You.

Announcing the shortlist, chair of judges Delia Jarrett-Macauley called it “an engrossing, well-crafted and dauntless pack of stories”, and commented on the high number of science fiction and fantasy entries.

“The high standard of the entries was clear throughout and particularly noteworthy was the increasing number of fantasy fictions [with] the sci-fi trend resonating in several excellent stories,” she said.

“My fellow judges commented on the pleasure of reading the stories, the gift of being exposed to the exciting short fictions being produced by African writers today and the general shift away from politics towards more intimate subjects – though recent topics such as the Ebola crisis were being wrestled with.

“It was inspiring to note the amount of risk-taking in both subject matter and style, wild or lyrical voices matching the tempered measured prose writers, and stories tackling uneasy topics, ranging from an unsettling, unreliable narrator’s tale of airport scrutiny, to a science-fictional approach towards the measurement of grief, a young child’s coming to grips with family dysfunction, the big drama of rivalling siblings and the silent, numbing effects of loss.

“The panel is proud to have shortlisted writers from across the continent, finding stories that are compelling, well-crafted and thought-provoking.”

2016 Caine Prize for African Writing shortlist:

 

The winner of the £10,000 (about R220,000) prize will be announced at an award ceremony and dinner at the Bodleian Libraries in Oxford, United Kingdom on Monday, 4 July. Each shortlisted writer will also receive £500.

Each of the stories will be published in New Internationalist’s 2016 Caine Prize Anthology in July and through co-publishers across Africa.

 
Related stories:

Book details

Truth and tears, but not the boring sort - Diane Awerbuck reviews Stations by Nick Mulgrew

By Diane Awerbuck for the Sunday Times

StationsStations
Nick Mulgrew (David Philips Publishers)
****

“Life: lived forwards; understood backwards.” So wrote Søren Kierkegaard in the 1800s, and not much has changed. He wouldn’t have couched it in these terms, but Kierkegaard’s approach – like Nick Mulgrew’s – is peculiarly African. The philosopher was against the segregation of “the world of the spirit”: he argued for subjectivity and participation as the way to fathom any truth worth knowing about existence.

The stories in Mulgrew’s prose debut, Stations, deal with this kind of subjectivity in the flawed interactions between people. To understand the characters, Mulgrew says, the reader must realise that we do not have to be intentionally bad to do bad things. “A lot of my characters would probably think they’re perfectly good people, but they’re otherwise complacent or ignorant. The stories share themes, settings, even characters: they all intersect, although sometimes I will be the only one who sees where and how.”

The title, he explains, is a 14-story suite with each story loosely corresponding to one of the Catholic Stations of the Cross, the 14 places of contemplation that mark the progressive agony of Jesus on the way to his death at Golgotha – his dying intentionally stripped of its power because it happens alongside two notorious thieves.

Stations are traditionally places of connection and transition – consider train stations, or resting places for weary travellers, or simply received ideas about our place in the social hierarchy. Many of the conflicts that play out in Mulgrew’s fiction are the result of characters getting ideas above their station, as the terrifying story “Gala Day” reveals.

Mulgrew’s own station is a colourful and wildly decorated place, a composite of his childhood and maturity in uMhlanga, Auckland and Cape Town: never boring, “but not great for your sense of self”. For a man in his mid-20s, his ticket’s been punched into confetti: writer, poet, journalist, print designer, typesetter, beer and restaurant critic, magazine editor and publisher, Masters student and NGO deputy chair. The “origami construction” of a character in the award-winning story “Turning ” might as well apply to himself.

Mulgrew says he is “cautious of gimmicks and glibness”, and his style is mercifully free of self-consciousness and ornamentation. The stories are so affecting because they are high-concept, but their prose also delivers various bangs for your buck. Take this sex scene: “How can one deserve the way everything was constructed, from dirt and ash and rock, all to place this person here with me? How worlds and universes and stardust were broken up and subsided here, in the midst of brick and sheet-roofing and oak; how two bodies of water and carbon and phosphorous and bone fight here with all their will to inhabit the same points of space and time as the other. I hadn’t prayed in all my life until the night you fell asleep, afterwards, next to me.”

It ends in tears, of course. Ne estas kialo, proclaims the girlfriend’s tattoo. There is no why. But that’s no reason to stop prospecting. Mulgrew’s next novel is set between the KwaZulu-Natal coast and the North Island of New Zealand. “That one is about white flight, and, if I do it right, should make a lot of people very sad.”

Ever the journeyman, he ends his last story so: “This place had a geography that had to be relearned.” That’s a truth worth knowing.

Diane Awerbuck is the author of Home Remedies

 
Related stories:

Book details

South African writer Faraaz Mahomed wins 2016 Commonwealth Short Story Prize: Africa Region

2016 Commonwealth Short Story Prize
2016 Commonwealth Short Story Prize

 

Alert! The five regional winners of the 2016 Commonwealth Short Story Prize have been announced.

South African writer Faraaz Mahomed has been named the Africa Regional Winner for his short story “The Pigeon”.

Mahomed is a clinical psychologist and human rights researcher based in Johannesburg. “I am an unseasoned writer, who continues to struggle with the insecurities and anxieties of inexperience,” he says. “Winning the Commonwealth Prize for the African region is more than an accolade, it’s a prompting to continue down this path.”

2016 Commonwealth Short Story Prize judge Helon Habila says: “The Africa region included stories on almost every conceivable theme, accentuating the endless complexity and beauty of the continent; a testament to the inexhaustible talent that abounds there. ‘The Pigeon’ is a carefully and patiently woven tale about love, lust, guilt, and escape. It illustrates just how, as humans, we will always come short of our ideals, and we must learn to live with that.”

Other South African writers on the shortlist were Andrew Salomon, Cat Hellisen and Mark Winkler. From Nigeria, Lausdeus Chiegboka, Enyeribe Ibegwam and Oyinkan Braithwaite were also shortlisted.

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize aims to “brings stories from new and emerging voices, often from countries with little or no publishing infrastructure, to the attention of an international audience”. 26 stories by writers from 11 countries made up the shortlist. Five winners from the five different Commonwealth regions are selected, winning £2,500 (about R53,000) each. The overall winner will be announced at the Calabash International Literary Festival in Jamaica on 5 June, and will be awarded £5,000 (about R106,000).

2016 Commonwealth Short Story Prize regional winners

  • Pacific Regional Winner: “Black Milk” by Tina Makereti (New Zealand)
  • Asia Regional Winner: “Cow and Company” by Parashar Kulkarni (India)
  • Africa Regional Winner: “The Pigeon” by Faraaz Mahomed (South Africa)
  • Canada and Europe Regional Winner: “Eel” by Stefanie Seddon (UK)
  • Caribbean Regional Winner: “Ethelbert and the Free Cheese” by Lance Dowrich (Trinidad and Tobago)

Chair of judges, South African novelist and playwright Gillian Slovo, said of the regional winners: “From Faraaz Mahomed’s ‘The Pigeon’ with its playful tone and unreliable narrator, Parashar Kulkarni’s ‘Cow and Company’, a witty satire that engagingly immerses the reader in its world, and ‘Eel’, a simply told and moving story of childhood by Stefanie Seddon to Lance Dowrich’s comedic ‘Ethelbert and the Free Cheese’ and Tina Makereti’s ‘Black Milk’, which impressed with a lyricism that takes the reader into another world while keeping us always on earth, these were all worthy winners and show how well the short story is flourishing in the Commonwealth.”

Commonwealth Writers has partnered with Granta, and on winning story will be published online on that platform every Wednesday until 1 June. At the same time, a conversation between the regional judge and the regional winner will be available as a podcast.

In the meantime, read a short excerpt from “The Pigeon”:

Each morning, for about four months now, I am woken by the same foul, fat pigeon. I am certain that he’s the same one, even though I have no means to prove it. In truth, I have no way to be sure he is a he either. It used to occur to me that maybe he had left something at the window, or inside and was hoping that being here to retrieve it would allow him some release. On most Saturdays, I leave the window open. It makes me feel kind, because I am easing his spirit into the next phase or something of that nature.

Excerpts from all 26 stories are available to read on the Commonwealth Writers website.

 
Related stories: