It is inspired by the Read South Africa campaign (on Facebook), which the lovely Damaria is involved in. The campaign aims to encourage South Africans to read. I think that is somewhat obvious. I am all for reading. They are doing a vote for the top 50 books from Africa this decade, and the top 10 South African ones. I have already voted, have you? If you don't have Facebook, you can still vote here.
This list does not obey those requirements, it is just a list of books from Africa that I have read that made an impact on me, or that I enjoyed, or that I think are worth reading, from any time. Just because I like reading, and did some UNISA courses that involved reading African literature and so I have read a few recently.
In no particular order:
- Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe). This book says everything about a young girl caught between two cultures that you need to know. In the book, a white psychologist denies that a black girl could have an eating disorder. I think that about sums it up.
- The heart of Redness by Zakes Mda (South Africa). This book is beautiful, it is like reading a fable. It takes the history of the Xhosa people and weaves into something magical.
- Ake by Wole Soyinka (Nigeria). Again this book is magical. It is supposedly autobiographical but we have to allow hugely for poetic licence, as he writes how the world seemed to him as a kid, not as things actually were. I was fascinated by the richness of Nigerian cultures that I never knew existed.
- Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee (South Africa). I did not enjoy this book at all. I have not enjoyed any of his books. This one is clinical, dry, bleak to the extreme. That does not mean it is not brilliant though. I think he is just too smart for the average reader to appreciate. I found it strange that this book was controversial though. I could not find one thing in there that seemed controversial to me.
- Down Second Avenue by Ezekiel Mphahlele (South Africa). This is an autobiography. What really impacted upon me in this book was the way things were before Apartheid. People can say whatever terrible things they want about Apartheid, and they would be correct, but South Africa was already segregated and as racist as hell long before Apartheid. Apartheid just extended what was already there. I am so glad this writer got to see it all fall down.
- A long walk to freedom by Nelson Mandela (South Africa). I already blogged about my appreciation for this book. I loved the tone, the style, the subtle humour. I loved it all.
- Cry the beloved Country by Alan Paton (South Africa). I last read this years ago, but every time I enjoyed it very much. IT is just well written and real. The tone of this book defines South Africa for me.
- Country of my skull by Antjie Krog (South Africa). Frik. Frikken frik. I had to read this book for a course, and because I was studying it, I had to read it a second time. I had to stop every two pages or so to recover and have a break. She does not withold any of the details of what was covered in the TRC in the 90's. But somehow she managed to turn this book into a work of art, by weaving her own reactions and interpretations into it that came out almost like a poem. This was very controversial, but in my opinion, she did it brilliantly. There was only one thing that I did not like in the book. She decided to introduce a fictional affair into the narrative. The whole book is about the elusivity of truth, I know. But she presents her side of the story as biographical, and then throws in a made up affair because she felt the story "needed it" at that point. I have to disagree. The book would have been perfect without the affair and by adding it you totally jar the reader, who is puzzled as to why it was necessary, and it detracts from the otherwise perfectly executed narrative. I will never understand her motives there.
- Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria). I enjoyed this much more than her second one. I did not know much about Nigeria when I read this, so I found it all fascinating.
- Moxyland by Lauren Beukes (South Africa). Yes, I bought this! What with the soundtrack, the toy (which I am still thinking of getting) and the book, this is quite a product. The book is a really good sci-fi story, especially if you are into a cyberpunk-but-not-quite style. But anyone could read it. I love the ending, it is so unsentimental.
- Abyssinian Chronicles by Moses Isegawa (Uganda). This book is also thoroughly unsentimental and portrays what happened in Uganda in such a matter of fact way, through the eyes of a quirky protagonist who is not overly fond of his mother, whose name just happens to be Padlock.
The Good Doctor by Damon Galgut (South AFrica). There is something about the interactions between the characters in this book that felt real (and slightly depressing) to me.
- Things fall apart by Chinua Achebe (Nigeria). This is a classic and was probably my first introduction to the ideas of colonisation of cultures and what happens when you allow two cultures to clash without considering the possibility of different frames of reference. Okonkwo was probably one of my educational foundations!
This is not an exhaustive list of what I have read and like from Africa, not to mention all the Afrikaans books we read at school, but as these came to my mind first, by my logic they must be the best.