Africa's 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century (Creative Writing)

To mark the beginning of the 21st Century, and encouraged by Professor Ali Mazrui, the Zimbabwe International Book Fair (ZIBF) launched the international compilation of "Africa's 100 Best Books." Nominations were sought throughout the African continent and internationally. A comprehensive list of all nominations was published by ZIBF.

Definition of an African: Only books written by Africans were eligible. After extensive discussion and debate the ZIBF for the purpose of the project defined an African as: "someone either born in Africa or who became a citizen of an African country."

Nominations were made on the basis that the book has had a powerful, important or affecting influence on the nominator, as an individual, or on society.

The List for Creative Writing (in alphabetical Order)

1. Abnudi, Abd al-Rahman (Egypt)--al-Mawt 'ala al-asfalt
2. Achebe, Chinua (Nigeria)--Arrow of God
3. Achebe, Chinua (Nigeria)--Things Fall Apart
4. Aidoo, Ama Atta (Ghana)--Anowa
5. Almeida, Germano (Cape Verde)--O testamento do Sr. Napumonceno da Silva Araujo
6. Armah, Ayi Kwei (Ghana)--The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born
7. Ba, Amadou Hampate (Mali)--L'etrange destin de Wangrin
8. Ba, Mariama (Senegal)--Une si longue lettre
9. Ben Jelloun, Tahar (Morocco)--La nuit sacree
10. Beti, Mongo (Cameroon)--Le pauvre Christ de Bomba
11. Brink, Andre (South Africa)--A Dry White Season
12. Bugul, Ken (Senegal)--Riwan, ou le chemin de sable
13. Cheney-Coker, Syl (Sierra Leone)--The Last Harmattan of Alusine Dunbar
14. Chraibi, Driss (Morocco)--Le Passe Simple
15. Coetzee, J.M. (South Africa)--Life and Times of Michael K
16. Couto, Mia (Mozambique)--Terra sonambula
17. Craveirinha, Jose (Mozambique)--Karingana ua Karingana
18. Dadie, Bernard (Cote d'Ivoire)--Climbie
19. Dangarembga, Tsitsi (Zimbabwe)--Nervous Conditions
20. Dib, Mohammed (Algeria)--Algerie, La grande maison, L'incendie, Le meitier a tisser
21. Diop, Birago (Senegal)--Les contes d'Amadou Koumba
22. Diop, Boubacar Boris (Senegal)--Murambi ou le livre des ossements
23. Djebar, Assia (Algeria)--L'amour, la fantasia
24. Emecheta, Buchi (Nigeria)--The Joys of Motherhood
25. Fangunwa, Daniel O. (Nigeria)--Ogboju ode ninu igbo irunmale
26. Farah, Nuruddin (Somalia)--Maps
27. Fugard, Athol (South Africa)--The Blood Knot
28. Ghitani, Jamal al- (Egypt)--Zanyi Barakat
29. Gordimer, Nadine (South African)--Burgher's Daughter
30. Head, Bessie (South Africa)--A Question of Power
31. Honwana, Bernardo (Mozambique)--Nos motamos o cao tinhoso
32. Hove, Chenjerai (Zimbabwe)--Bones
33. Isegawa, Moses (Uganda)--Abessijnse Kronieken
34. Jordan, Archibald Campbell (South Africa)--Ingqumbo yeminyanya
35. Joubert, Elsa (South Africa)--Die Swerdjare van Poppie Nongena
36. Kane, Cheikh Hamidou (Senegal)--L'aventure ambigue
37. Khosa, Ungulani Ba Ka (Mozambique)--Ualalapi
38. Kourouma, Ahmadou (Cote d'Ivoire)--Le soileils des independances
39. Laye Camara (Guinea)--L'enfant noir
40. Magona, Sindiwe (South Africa)--Living, Loving, and Lying Awake at Night
41. Mahfouz, Naguib (Egypt)--The Cairo Trilogy
42. Marechera, Dambudzo (Zimbabwe)--House of Hunger
43. Mofolo, Thomas (Lesotho)--Chaka
44. Monenembo, Tierno (Guinea)--Un attieke pour Elgass
45. Mutwa, Vusamazulu Credo (South Africa)--Indaba, My Children
46. Ngugi wa Thiong'o (Kenya)--Caitaana Mutharaba-ini
47. Ngugi wa Thiong'o (Kenya)--A Grain of Wheat
48. Niane, Djibril Tamsir (Senegal)--Soundjata ou l'epopee mandingue
49. Nyembezi, Sibusiso (South Africa)--Inkinnsela yase Mgungundlovu
50. Okibgo, Christopher (Nigeria)--Labyrinths
51. Okri, Ben (Nigeria)--The Famished Road
52. Oyono, Ferdinand (Cameroon)--Le vieux negre et la medille
53. P'Bitek, Okot (Uganda)--Song of Lawino
54. Pepetela (Angola)--A geracao da utopia
55. Saadwai, Nawal El (Egypt)--Woman at the Point Zero
56. Salih El Tayyib (Sudan)--Season of Migration to the North
57. Sassine, Williams (Guinea)--Le jeune homme de sable
58. Sembene, Ousmane (Senegal)--Les bouts des bois de Dieu
59. Senghor, Leopold Sedar (Senegal)--Ouevre poetique
60. Serote, Mongane (South Africans)--Third World Express
61. Shabaan, Robert Bin (Tanzania)--Utenzi wa vita vya uhuru
62. Sony Labou Tansi (Congo)--La vie et demie
63. Sow Fall, Aminata (Senegal)--La greve des battus
64. Soyinka, Wole (Nigeria)--Death and the King's Horsemen
65. Tchicaya, U Tam'si (Congo)--Le mauvais sang - feu de brousse - a trise-coeur
66. Tutuola, Amos (Nigeria)--The Palm-Wine Drinkard
67. Vera, Yvonne (Zimbabwe)--Butterfly Burning
68. Viejra, Jose Luandino (Angola)--Nos os do Makulusu
69. Vilakezi, B.W. (South Africa)--Amal'e Zulu
70. Yacine, Kateb (Algeria)--Nedjma

Country (No. of Different Writers)*
South Africa (12)
Senegal (9)
Nigeria (7)
Egypt (4)
Mozambique (4)
Zimbabwe (4)
Algeria (3)
Gunea (3)
Angola (2)
Cameroon (2)
Congo (2)
Cote d'Ivoire (2)
Ghana (2)
Morocco (2)
Uganda (2)
Cape Verde (1)
Lesotho (1)
Kenya (1)
Mali (1)
Sierra Leone (1)
Somalia (1)
Sudan (1)
Tanzania (1)

* When an author's name appear twice, it is counted as one.
The other categories making up the top 100 are Literature for Children (4) and Scholarship/non-fiction (26). Read the full list here.

Question: How many of these have you read? Was it good? Give us your opinion on the book.


  1. I've seen this list, too. I've read only "Things fall apart" and "Une si longue lettre". I liked the first one but I was a bit disappointed by the second one (but I might be deceived by the French language in which I am not 100% confident). You can find the reviews on my blog of course. :-)

  2. so you speak French also. Lovely. I have also read 'Things Fall Apart' and not 'Une si longue lettre'.

  3. I'm disappointed that I have not read the Ghanaian ones listed!!

    Here are the ones I have read:
    2. Achebe, Chinua (Nigeria)--Arrow of God (Read it for school. Excellent but quite heavy reading)

    3. Achebe, Chinua (Nigeria)--Things Fall Apart
    (Groundbreaking and pivotal text)

    8. Ba, Mariama (Senegal)--Une si longue lettre
    (One of my favorite books. Read it for French class. Sad and well-written)

    15. Coetzee, J.M. (South Africa)--Life and Times of Michael K
    (Another of my favorites, haunting and really captures the Apartheid landscape)

    35. Joubert, Elsa (South Africa)--Die Swerdjare van Poppie Nongena
    Interesting book about a black domestic worker in Apartheid South Africa. Read it for school and the author came to give us a talk many, many years ago.

    43. Mofolo, Thomas (Lesotho)--Chaka
    A must read for Southern Africa.

    58. Sembene, Ousmane (Senegal)--Les bouts des bois de Dieu
    Between Things Fall Apart and Les Bout des Bois de Dieu hard to decide which is my all time favorite African novel. Have read this one in English and French for school.

  4. Don't be disappointed Abena. You have read seven of the best. I can tell you not many people, including myself, have read half of what you have read. It is this wrong that I am trying to correct. Just finished reading Ayi Kwei Armah's 'Two Thousand Seasons'. Have not read anything by Ama Atta Aidoo. Of all the list the only one I have read is Things Fall Apart. Could you believe that? I would check on your must reads.

  5. I haven't read the majority of these, but THINGS FALL APART is one of the best books I've ever read.

  6. It is the most common book read my many...I would be reading it for the third, perhaps this month and I would post the review here.

  7. I've read quite a few.
    Things Fall Apart,
    So Long a Letter (English Translation),
    Arrow of God,
    The Beautiful Ones are Not yet Born,
    A Question of Power
    A Grain of Wheat (read this a long time ago)
    I must say that I was profoundly affected by Achebe's Arrow of God.

  8. @that's good. Replace with great if you are not an African. The number I'd read at the time I made the list was pitiful but now it has grown and I'm proud of that. But not THAT proud to tell others because I'm still below 20%.

  9. I have read most of them but my best was Things Fall Apart by Chinue Achebe'


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