Jonas Lähnemann
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Other African authors

Kenyan Literature
non-African authors about Africa

While staying in Kenya I started reading books not only by Kenyan, but also by other African authors. This literature, mostly fiction, gives an insight into the recent history and current problems of the African continent. So far I read:


** West Africa **

The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born - 1968
by Ayi Kwei Armah (Senegal/Ghana)
In independent, socialist Ghana no one gets far without taking bribes. The nameless main character of this book, a railway clerk, doesn't want to subdue to this, but his wife is holding this against him as she sees how far other people have gotten.
An impressive description of a country where, as so often in Africa, independence did not yield much for the majority of the population.

The Healers - 1978
by Ayi Kwei Armah (Senegal/Ghana)
After the murder of the young prince Appia of Esuano, Densu is accused, although he does not find any pleasure in competition and striving for power. He takes refuge with the healers to fulfill his dream of becoming one of them. The longterm aim of the healers is to work for the unification of the African people while they help individuals with health and psychological problems. With his teacher Damfo Densu is setting out on a journey. Through curing Asamoa Nkwanta, the general of the Asante army, they are supposed to win him for the aims of the healers, but then the white people from the coast are starting to advance into the mainland ...
This is a real masterpiece of narration, playing in West Africa at the time of the beginning colonization.

Things Fall Apart - 1958
by Chinua Achebe (Nigeria)
Through hard work Okonkwo has managed to rise to be one of the most important men in his tribe. However, after an accident he has to go into exile for seven years and on his return he finds that English missionaries and administrators have arrived there, a fact that he does not want put up with, but, after they were received with hospitality in the beginning it is now too late to resist.
In this story Chinua Achebe impressively describes pre-colonial traditions and how the British (and other colonial powers) with the help of Christianity were able to gain influence.

No Longer at Ease - 1960
by Chinua Achebe (Nigeria)
The grandson of Okonkwo from Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" lives in a different time, but like his grandfather he has to struggle with the changes in his society. During the late years of colonialism Obi is the first from his village to be sent for studies in Great Britain. After returning he gets a good job as senior civil servant. But why will this promising young man end up on trial for bribery?

Arrow of God - 1964
by Chinua Achebe (Nigeria)
Just like "Things Fall Apart", this book playz in a village of the Ibo tribe in Nigeria at a time when the solonialist are slowly pushing forward up country. Chinua Achebe tells the story of Ezeulo, the high-priest of the god Ulo, who is fighting for his power against his competitors in his tribe, the Christian missionaries and the white colonialists around Mr. Winterbottom. Through this he describes the life and traditions of the natives on the one hand, but also many aspects of the interaction with the first white people.

A Man Of The People - 1966
by Chinua Achebe (Nigeria)
Odili, the narrator, is teacher in an African country shortly after it's independence. He wants a scholarship to continue his studies abroad and his former teacher Chief Nanga, now Culture Minister in the government, offers to help him. Although Odili disapproves of the partisanship and corruption in his country he goes to visit Chief Nanga in the capital city during the vacation. They get into a quarrel over a woman and subsequently also become political competitors. Trying to denounce inequities in his country he gets to feel what it means to challenge the people in power. A versatile analysis of the situation following independence, where everyone only looks for his own gain, that certainly applies to many African countries during that time and still has actuality nowadays.

The poor Christ of Bomba (from French original) - 1956
by Mongo Beti (Cameroon)
Denis is a ministrant at the missionary station of Bomba and writes his diary while traveling with reverend Drumont. While he is convinced by Drumont's work, the missionary is starting to doubt his mission.
This book critically reflects the Christian missionary work in Africa and points out the relationship between this work and the colonial regime.


** South Africa **

Takadini - 1997
by Ben Hanson (Zimbabwe)
Takadini tells the story of a mother fighting for acceptance of her disabled son in a traditional African society. Normally albinos and children differing from the norm in other ways are always "sent back to the elders" after their birth, but Sekai does not want to accept this fate for her son Takadini. However, will he, being an outcast, be able to bear up against the challenges of the society?

Time of the Butcherbird - 1979
by Alex La Guma (South Africa)
South Africa during the early years of Apartheid. A small town inhabited by the descendants of Dutch immigrants is preparing for a special church service to pray for rain. The British salesman of household goods Edgar Stopes gets stuck here after his car breaks down, but seeing himself as 'educated' he does not enjoy mingling with the local crowd. The farmer Hannes Meulen is the sole canidate for the national assembly. The Bantu Shilling Murile, a former worker on Meulen's farm, returns from prison to a village defying an order to leave their land for the establishment of a new mine, but all Murile has in mind is revenge. With these characters something completely different than rain is developing.

Mine Boy - 1946
by Peter Abrahams (South Africa)
Unprepared for the new environment Xuma from the North arrives in Johannesburg to work in the mines. He despairs again and again while trying to cope with the hard city life and the segregated worlds of blacks and whites. This also reflects in his love affairs with Elisa and Maisy.
Without concentrating on it in an accusatory way the reality of black South Africans under a white government and the effect that this situation has on the people is shown.


** East Africa **

Desert Flower - 1998
by Waris Dirie (Somalia/USA)
From Nomad daugther in Somalia, living with the elements of nature and without time in a Western sense, to a successfull model and UN-envoy against female genital mutilation. A captivating autobiography telling of the idyllic but hard lifestyle in the desert, the horror of female circumcission and the adventure of a girl running away from home at age thirteen to avoid marrying a sixty year old man and finally getting all the way to London.

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