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Alibris - Books You Thought You'd Never Find

Africa's 100 Best books of the 20th Century

 

Creative/ Fiction category

To buy the book, just click on the cover .

Author

Country

Title

Review

Abnudi, `Abd al-Rahman

Egypt

Al-Mawt `Ala Al-Asfalt

 

Achebe, Chinua

 

 

 

 

Nigeria

Arrow Of God

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An intense drama which presents the character of Ezeulu, the patron deity of an Igbo village, whose authority is challenged first by the colonial powers, then his own people and finally his family. Here, in his third novel, Achebe presents a careful study of the effects of power and of its loss.

'As in Achebe's other novels, it is the strong-willed man of tradition who cannot adapt, and who is crushed by virtues in the war between the new, more worldly order, and the old conservative values of an isolated society.' Gerald Moore in Seven African Writers.

 

Achebe, Chinua

 

 

 

Nigeria

Things Fall Apart

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Enormously successful novel, which has sold over 8 million copies since it was first published in 1958. It traces the life of Okonkwo, a great man in traditional Igbo society, whose world is defined by the values and institutions of his cultural community.

Written as the century of British rule was coming to an end, it throws into sharp relief conflicting forces: from history, forces from Okonkwo's own character, and influences from uncompromising tradition. These hurtle the story to its tragic ending. Available in several different editions.

 

Aidoo, Ama Ata

 

 

 

Ghana

Dilema Of A Ghost / Anowa

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Two dramatic plays which explore the tensions between western culture and traditional African society. In Dilemma of a Ghost, Ato returns from University in the United States with a sophisticated new wife.

The author explores the unstable foundations of their marriage and the fault lines between genders. In Anowa, a young woman defies her parents and marries the man she loves. However, when she assess their long life together, she realises that something vital is missing.

 

Almeida, Germano

 

 

 

Cape Verde

O Testamento Do Sr. Napumoceno Da Silva Araújo 

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The fictional memoir of a Cape Verdean merchant concerned about hypocrisy. Portuguese text.

Armah, Ayi Kwei

Ghana

The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born

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This first novel is set during the last days of Nkrumah, it tells the story of a railway freight clerk and his struggle against corruption which will infect both his family and his country.

Ba,Amadou Hampate

Mali

L'étrange Destin De Wangrin

The Fortunes of Wangrin

New edition of a classic treatment of the impact of the colonial system on local populations during French rule in West Africa. Wnagrin is a rogue, hustling both the colonial French and his own people in stories drawn from traditional oral sources.

 This novel tells the story of Wagrin, a Malian character who from a young age is coupled with the Deity of mischief and cunning. His adventures take him to the pinnacle of power and fortune until he displeases the Gods.

Mariama Ba
 

Senegal

**Une Si Longue Letter

So Long a Letter

 

Ba's novels explore tensions between the different social realities existing in West Africa. Within this short novel, her first, she explores the condition of women in Africa and the disregard of their experiences. Set in the form of letters between two friends,

Ba's lyrical prose reveals the pain of her character, whose husband, in a deliberate betrayal of trust, took another wife - an action sanctioned by society but out of touch with modern realities and relationships.

Tahar Ben Jelloun

Morocco

La Nuit Sacrée

The Sacred Night

Winner of the 1987 Prix Goncourt. A searing allegorical portrait of North African society, using arabic tales and surrealist elements to craft a powerful and disturbing vision of protest and rebellion against the strictures of hidebound traditions governing gender roles and sexuality. English text.

Mongo Beti

Cameroon

Le Pauvre Christ De Bomba

The Poor Christ of Bomba

 

A novel that explores the problems of introducing Christianity into Africa and its confrontation with the indigenous religions of Cameroon. Beti satirises the missionary movement through the travels of a French priest during the 1930s related by his African cook, in the form of her journal. 219pp, UK.

Andre Brink
 

South Africa

A Dry White Season

South African essayist, playwright and novelist, this book is a meditation on the ways ordinary people become politicised in repressive States.

It is the story of Ben du Toit, whose investigations into his friends death causes him to become an outsider in his own community, in conflict with the apartheid system.

Ken Bugul

Senegal

Riwan, Ou Le Chemin De Sable

Travel across a desert, reconsidering realities and traditions: life, death, polygamy, alienation, and seduction. Text in French.

Syl Cheney-Coker

Sierra Leone

The Last Harmattan Of Alusine Dunbar

 

 

Driss Chraibi

Morocco

Passe Simple

The Simple Past

Published as Morocco was fighting for its independence from France in 1954, it caused shockwaves in both countries, for his poetic expression of the drama inherent in the conflict of civilisations and his treatment of themes such as identity, the condition of women, and the weight of Islam in North Africa. French text.

J. M. Coetzee
 

South Africa

Life and Times of Michael K
 

Coetzee's work introduces the concept of ethics into post-modern literature and questions concepts of authorship and power.

In this book he tells the story of one of the many inarticulate victims of Apartheid. A young gardener who, alarmed by the escalation of the war, decides to takes his mother away from the violence. However, events overtake him and he must fight with the only resources he has.

Mia Couto

Mozambique

**Terra sonâmbula

TERRA SONAMBULA

et in the context of the anti-colonial war this is the acclaimed debut novel from the Mozambican writer. Originally published in 1992. IN PORTUGUESE.

Craveirinha, José

Mozambique

Karingana Ua Karingana

 

Bernard Binlin Dadié
 

Côte d'Ivoire

Climbié

 

Tsitsi Dangarembga
 

Zimbabwe

**Nervous Conditions

NERVOUS CONDITIONS

Dangaremba's fictional work encompasses the themes of exile, the impact of the West and power through her carefully crafted characters.

In this book her main character, Tamba, thinks her dreams have come true when her wealthy and educated uncle offers to sponsor her education. But mission school carries a heavy price.

Mohammed Dib,

Algeria

La Grande Maison

 L'incendie,

Le Métier À Tisser  

 

 La grande maison,

A novel exploring how one can be free. An Algerian looks forward from colonialism towards a new future? First novel in a trilogy. Text in French.

 

L'incendie

Second in the trilogy. The main character, Omar, has begun a new life in a village in the highland of Algeria. He becomes embroiled in strikes by agricultural workers and a country in turmoil. This is Dib's testament to the Algerian peasantry. Text in French.

 

Le métier à tisser

Third novel in the trilogy which tells the story of Omar, a young Algerian who watches as his community is slowly crushed by labour and hunger as the Second World War approaches. French text, 203pp, FRANCE.

Birago Diop
 

Senegal

Los Cuentos De Amadou Koumba

Tales of Amadou Koumba

This collection of folktales captures the beliefs and philosophy of the cultures of Mali and Senegal through animal fables and stories. Text in French. Preface by L Senghor,

Boubacar Boris Diop
 

Senegal

Murambi Ou Le Livre Des Ossements

A Senegalese writer considers horrific events in Rwanda: through the lives of childhood friends, he explores the fragility and potential for brutality of human beings

Assia Djebar
 

Algeria

**L'amour, La Fantasia

Fantasia
FANTASIA. An Algerian Cavalcade

A novel sliding easily from the past - the French occupation of Algiers towards the present-changing relations between peoples.

Buchi Emecheta
 

Nigeria

Joys of Motherhood

Born to Igbo parents in Nigeria, Emecheta has lived for over twenty years in Britain. Her work is marked by the tension between the traditional and the modern in women's lives and their role as mothers and carers.

The ironically titled Joys of Motherhood is Emecheta's indictment of a society which demands the continuing fertility of its women. Her main character Nnu Ego's whole destiny is centred around her children and her role as a mother, but she's continually disappointed as her identity is eroded, leaving her defined by her ability to bear children. 224pp, UK.

Daniel Orowole Fagunwa

Nigeria

Ogboju Ode Ninu Igbo Irunmale

Forest of a Thousand Daemons

This book contains a very interesting story and adventure of a West African Hunter in a dreadful forest, who eventually found the secret of lasting happiness and peace of mind. The author is Daniel Fagunwa. Wole Soyinka, a Nobelist translated the story. This book had 140 pages of jam-packed action.
The reader is easily swept away by many adventure of the heroic hunter in this book. The story is captivating, and emotion-ladden, and by the time the reader hit page 20, you wont feel like dropping the book until you finish reading it.

Nuruddin Farah

Somalia

Maps: A Novel

 

Somalia's best known writer: Born in Somalia in 1945 into a nomadic tradition and educated in India and the UK.

Combining oral traditions with Somalian poetic devices, his novels are strikingly lyrical. This is Farah's sixth novel and is set during Ogaden War of 1977. It evokes thestruggles between personal, ethnic and national identities through the characters of Askar and his adopted mother, Misra, an Oromo from Ethiopia.

Athol Fugard
 

South Africa

Blood Knot: A Play In Seven Scenes

First performed in 1961, this early Fugard play explores the South African obsession with race, drawing on experience of family and society in Port Elizabeth.

Gamal Al-Ghitani, 

Egypt

 

Zayni Barakat

 ZAYNI BARAKAT

This novel is set in Egypt in the 1500s but reads almost as commentary on the poverty stricken, corrupt and divided greater Cairo as it was in the 1950s, under General Nasser. Translated into French by J.-F. Fourcade. 319pp, in French, FRANCE (Author name rendered as Gamal Ghitany on this edition.)

Nadine Gordimer

South Africa

Burger's Daughter

Nadine Gordimer was born in 1923 to Jewish parents in Johannesburg. Her work spans the entire period of Apartheid and she has consistently fought these political forces of separation in her fiction. Her creative work is rooted in the European and Russian novel form, but with consistently African themes. Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991

In this novel Gordimer has created a character - the daughter of an anti-Apartheid activist - who embodies the uncertainty of existence in South Africa. 3

Bessie Head
 

South Africa

A Question of Power

Novelist and short story writer, Head's work has been characterised by her turbulent early life. Born to a white mother and a black father in Pietermaritzberg in 1937, she grew up in foster care and in an Anglican orphanage. She left South Africa during the 1960s, after the break up of her marriage, and was declared a refugee in Botswana. Despite her unsettled existence there, her literary life is in Botswana. All her novels have autobiographical aspects but 'A Question of Power' is conspicuously based on her own experiences.

The main character, Elisabeth, suffers a mental breakdown having left South Africa for Botswana. The narrative is based on the characters internal experiences and decent into madness. This is set against the ordinary action of a village in Botswana.

Luis Bernardo Honwana
 

Mozambique

Nos Matamos O Cão Tinhoso

We Killed Mangy Dog and Other Stories: & Other Stories

A collection of short stories by the Mozambican writer, documentary film maker and photographer. He exposes the racism inherent in the Portuguese colonial government through the lives of his characters expressed in poetic and vernacular language.

Chenjerai Hove,

Zimbabwe

Bones

Poet, novelist and editor, Hove's fiction expresses the experience of the liberation war in Zimbabwe and its impact on the Shona.

A prose poem, Bones explores the role that woman have played in the liberation of the country and the betrayals of its people by the nationalist government through the story of Marita, a farm labourer on a white farm.

Moses Isegawa
 

Uganda

Abessijnse Kronieken

Abyssinian Chronicles


 

Born in Kampala in 1963, Isegawa's life and fiction has been characterised by his experience of Idi Amin's murderous regime.

This, his acclaimed first novel, has an impressive cast of characters who embody the humour, richness and the tragedy of life in Uganda

Jordan, Archibald Campbell

South Africa

Ingqumbo Yeminyanya

 

Elsa Joubert
 

South Africa

Die Swerdjare Van Poppie Nongena

 

Cheikh Hamidou Kane

Senegal

L'aventure Ambiguë

Ambiguous Adventure

 

Kane has received wide acclaim for his first novel which tells the story of a young Muslim boy who is sent to the French school to learn secrets of the white man's power.

Through his fiction, he grapples with the philosophical dimensions of the colonial encounter and the centrality of Islam in Senegalese culture.

Ungulani Ba Ka Khosa
 

Mozambique

Ualalapi

Disturbing account of the tyrannical rule of Ngungunhane, hitherto celebrated for his resistance to the Portuguese, and the Nguni warrior who killed the king's brother. Text in Portuguese.

Ahmadou Kourouma

Côte d'Ivoire

Les Soleils Des Independences/

The Suns of Independence

SUNS OF INDEPENDENCE

 Published in Montreal in 1968 after French publishers rejected it, this first novel by the Cote D'Ivoirian novelist received fierce criticism for the way he used the French language to express Malinke imagery and speech rhythms, showing more fully the way his characters think.

Kourouma examines the psychological consequences of traditional African culture and that of the colonist colliding through the characters of Fama, a Dumbuya prince trying to make his mark within the new hierarchy, and Salimata, his wife struggling with her own past and vision of the future.

Camara Laye,

Guinea

L'enfant Noir

The Dark Child
: The Autobiography Of An African Boy

 


 

Autobiographical story of Camara Laye's life growing up in Guinea, which he wrote whilst in France. He relates the religious rituals and traditions of his community and creates a lasting impression of a people. Translated from the French Eva Thoby-Marcelin.

Sindiwe Magona
 

South Africa

Living, Loving and Lying Awake at Night
 

 

A collection of short stories which bring the full range of South African women's experience brilliantly to light

Naguib Mahfouz

Egypt

**The Cairo Trilogy
: Palace Walk, Palace Of Desire, Sugar Street

 

Born in 1911 in Cairo, Mahfouz's prolific career chronicling the lives of ordinary Egyptians has had him credited with the creation of the modern Arabic novel. His work has been marked by long silences provoked by revolution and uncertainty in his country but despite intimidation and an assassination attempt, Mahfouz continues to write with elegance and sensitivity about the poor, the oppressed and questions of faith and spirituality.

The Cairo Trilogy, his most famous work, is an epic of storytelling. It traces the lives of three generations of a Cairo family. The lives of the characters are interwoven with the turmoil of the Twentieth Century. Mahfouz won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988

Dambudzo Marechera
 

Zimbabwe

The House of Hunger


Born in 1952 in Zimbabwe, poet, playwright and novelist, Marechera's short, turbulent life is echoed through his work.

Realist and experimental, this is a collection of nine short stories which expresses Marechera's alienation with his Shona roots, the brutality of the townships and the Rhodesian government. Influenced by and compared to the European tradition of Modernist writers, he has been outspoken and controversial about issues of language and nationalism and has been criticised for choosing to write in English.

Thomas Mofolo
 

Lesotho

**Chaka

The story of a Zulu warrior presented as a study of human passion, of an uncontrolled and then uncontrollable ambition leading to the moral destruction of the character and the inevitable punishment

Monenembo, Tierno

Guinea

Un Attieké Pour Elgass

 

Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa
 

South Africa

Indaba, My Children

 Without the infromation in this classic one has no claim to knowledge about Africa and her people.
Credo Mutwa is 'the real deal', and his outpouring of African history flows in the oral tradition to take the reader on a journey of discovery. The book contains incredible facts and insights, sure to alter old perceptions. This book has value for those interested in history, anthropology and archeology, shamanism, sociology, psychology, language, politics and mythology -If you feel any doubt about reading this book -Simply get it and read it.

Ngugi wa Thiong'o

Kenya

Caitaani Mutharaba-Ini

Devil on the Cross
 

Ngugu was in prison as he wrote this book, written on sheets of toilet paper and carefully hidden within his cell. The weaving of fantasy and realism create a scathing critique of modern Kenyan society and the alienation of the people from their land.

Ngugi wa Thiong'o
 

Kenya

**A Grain of Wheat

A GRAIN OF WHEAT

Set in Kenya during the last days of British rule in 1963, Ngugi uses the characters to establish the racial, social and moral issues which would mark Kenya during its post-colonial years. He shows the roots of the forces which would pit Kenyan against Kenyan.

D. T. Niane

Senegal

Soundjata Ou L'épopée Mandingue

SUNDIATA: An Epic Of Old Mali


 

An epic, which ranges from the Atlantic to Timbutu. Griots have kept alive this tale of ancient heroes

C. L. Sibusiso Nyembezi
 

South Africa

Inkinnsela Yasemgungundlovu / The VIP Of Pietermaritzburg
 

 

Written in Zulu, and first published in 1961, this novel tells of the rotten life of someone who adopts a 'white' lifestyle in Apartheid South Africa, and of criminal exploits in a country district. 3rd edition with new orthography

Christopher Okigbo
 

Nigeria

Labyrinths With Path of Thunder

 

Ben Okri
 

Nigeria

The Famished Road

 

This novel is magical adventure set in the turbulent world of Azaro, a spirit child who journeys through life with a constant reminder of the spirit world he has left behind.

Okri was born in 1959 in Minna in Nigeria, which he soon left with his family and only returned at the age of seven. African mythology, especially that of the Yoruba, are deeply woven into his creative work and form the basis of his poetic prose.

Ferdinand Oyono

Cameroon

Le\Vieux Negre et la Medaille

The Old Man and the Medal

 

In this book Oyono uses his character Meka, who is about to receive a medal from the colonial government for long service, to satirise the system which the medal represents.

Alan Paton

South Africa

Cry, the Beloved Country

 

South African novelist and academic, Paton's reputation was established with this book, published in 1948. It tells the story of the Rev. Stephen Kumalo, who leaves his village in Natal to search for his disappeared son in Johannesburg. There he finds both the intense degradation and despair of the city and active resistance to white laws.

Okot P'Bitek
 

Uganda

Song of Lawino & Song of Ocol

A lament sung by a woman whose husband has rejected village life and taken a new wife who speaks English, powders her face and is skinny like European women. It is a lament for the rejection of the deeply-rooted traditions of their ancestors and the superficial materialism of Western values.

It is followed by the Song of Ocol, her husbands response. Its terse verse belies the frustration he feels at the outdated values of his society. Illustrated with b/w drawings

Pepetela

Angola

A Geração Da Utopia

Based around Benguela in Angola, 'The Generation From Utopia' expresses the disillusionment that comes with the independence. In Portuguese.

Nawal El Saadawi,

Egypt

Woman at Point Zero

n this book El Saadawi recounts the life of a woman called Firdaus who was imprisoned and later executed for the murder of a pimp in a Cairo street. The power of the novel comes from its simplicity of form and her direct, almost clipped style stemming from her long work in fighting religious and colonial oppression of women.

Al-Tayyib Salih

Sudan

Season of Migration to the North
 

Salih's fiction assesses the impact of the colonial encounter on the physical and psychological self through his characters who embody different values of assimilation and resistance. 169pp, UK.

Williams Sassine
 

Guinea

Le jeune homme de sable

Youth revolts: against arbitrary power, paternal betrayal, violence and egoism.

Sembene Ousmane
 

Senegal

Les Bouts De Bois De Dieu

God's Bits of Wood


 

In this book Ousmane draws on his experiences during the 1947-8 strike on the Dakar-Niger railway and draws a sweeping, historical narrative which encompasses the tragedy of pre-independence years.

Leopold Sedar Senghor
 

Senegal

**Euvre Poetique

COLLECTED POETRY

Dual language volume brings together the poetic works of one of Africa's most significant and important literary voices, Senghor's achievement has been in successfully using the French language to express African imagery, metaphor and thought. English and French text, 598pp, USA.

Mongane Wally Serote
 

South Africa

Third World Express

A new edition of these two longer poems combined in a short volume.

Shabaan,
Robert Bin

Tanzania

Utenzi Wa Vita Vya Uhuru

 

Sony Labou Tansi

Congo

La Vie Et Demie

Stories of a mythical country with a bloody, yet absurd dictatorial regime.

Aminata Sow Fall

Senegal

La Grève Des Battus Beggar's Strike

 A denunciation of tyranny, in the author's own country perhaps, or maybe elsewhere? A mayor tries to get rid of the street beggars from the town... but the beggars are organised! 166pp, French text.

Wole Soyinka
 

Nigeria

Death and the Kings Horseman

 

 

Playwright and novelist, Soyinka has worked on experimental and political forms of theatre both in the UK and in Nigeria. Choosing to write in English to reach a wider audience both abroad and in multi-lingual Nigeria, his work was gently satirical of society as he perceived it. As his career has progressed, however, he has become increasingly outspoken against corruption and political oppression and was imprisoned for twenty-two months in 1967 for is sympathy for Biafra. In 1986, Wole Soyinka became the first African to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

In this play, published in 1975, Soyinka plots a character whose only destiny in life is to commit ritual suicide at the King's death and lead his horses to the land of the ancestors. The intervention of a British colonial officer jeopardises the precarious balance of cultures.

Tchicaya U Tam'si

Congo

Le mauvais sang ; suivi de Feu de brousse ; et, A triche

 The author's three first poetry collections collected in one volume. French text,

Amos Tutuola
 

Nigeria

The Palm-Wine Drinkard

 

A controversial character in African Literature, Amos Tutuola explores the written medium to express Yoruba folktales and methods of storytelling. Despite being celebrated by figures such as Dylan Thomas, Tutuola's use of pidgin English has provoked criticism in his own country, Nigeria.

This short tale, published in 1952, recounts the mythological story of a drunken man who follows his dead Palm wine tapster into a world of supernatural beings.

Yvonne Vera

Zimbabwe

Butterfly Burning

A story set in Makokoba in the 1940s by one of Africa's leading women novelists. It captures the bitter-sweet flavour of township life.

Vieira, José Luandino

Angola

Nós Os Do Makulusu

 

B. Wallet Vilakazi
 

South Africa

Amal'ezulu

 

Kateb Yacine

Algeria

Nedjma
 

Tale of unrequited love that can be read as an allegory of Algeria's history. Originally published in French in 1956, this novel weaves the lives of the characters and their ancestors within the long, tumultuous history of the region.

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