Showing posts from May, 2012

168. The Famished Road by Ben Okri

Title: The Famished Road* Author: Ben Okri Genre: Fiction/Surrealist Publishers: Vintage Pages: 500 Year of First Publication: 1991 Country: Nigeria Ben Okri's The Famished Road  entrenches the writer's style of mixing what others might refer to as surrealism with realism. Like the stories in his collected short stories Incidents at the Shrine , Okri capitalises on the African's abundant belief in the spiritual world, or supernatural, to tell his stories, presenting the reader with a cascade of fantastic images and challenging descriptions. To the African the spirit world is not far off from or diametrical to the physical world; the African believes in the fluidity between the two and believes that children come from the spirit world, just as people go to the spirit world when they die. In effect, the African believes that the world we live in now, the one we see and feel, which could be referred to as the physical world, is just a transit in that infinit

167. Madmen and Specialists by Wole Soyinka

Title: Madmen and Specialists Author: Wole Soyinka Genre: Play/Political Publisher: University Press PLC Pages: 77 Year of First Publication: 1971 Country: Nigeria Read for the Africa Reading Challenge Wole Soyinka's play Madmen and Specialists  have made me think twice about this genre. This is the first book I can boldly say 'it went over my head. I never got it.' Perhaps it was the mentality I carried into the book: I went into the book knowing that Soyinka's plays have deeper meanings other than its superficial mirth he creates with verve, which burdened me so that after three days of labouring through a 77-page book, finally turning over the last page, I still could not put the various issues together to create one coherent idea. This play, which was written when the author was in prison during Nigeria's Civil War, is sad and gloom, unlike The Lion and the Jewel .  The story opens with a quartet of mendicants: Aafa, an arrogant, sarcast

Call for Submissions: Kwani? Manuscript Project

To celebrate the African novel and its adaptability and resilience, Kwani Trust announces a one-off new literary prize for African writing. The Kwani? Manuscript Project calls for the submission of unpublished fiction manuscripts from African writers across the continent and in the Diaspora. The prize seeks fresh, original work that explores and challenges the possibilities of the novel. The top 3 manuscripts will be awarded cash prizes: 1st Prize: 300,000 KShs (equivalent to $3,500)  2nd Prize: 150,000 KShs 3rd Prize: 75,000 KShs In addition Kwani? will publish manuscripts from across the shortlist and longlist, including the three winning manuscripts, as well as partnering with regional and global agents and publishing houses to create high profile international publication opportunities. Winners will be announced in December 2012 at the Kwani? Litfest. For more information go to their website . Submission Guidelines: Deadline: 20th August 2012 Word count: 60,00

Quotes for Friday from Ben Okri's The Famished Road

His mind had been unhinged by the blast of detonators, nights spent with corpses and by the superstitious incredulity of having killed so many white men. [33] "That's good. Life is full of riddles that only the dead can answer," was Dad's reply. [40] "The only power poor people have is their hunger." [70] The dead shook off their rust of living and seized up steel. Their lips quivered with the defiance of innocents, with manipulations of politicians and their interchangeable dreams, and with the insanity of thugs who don't even know for which parties they commit their atrocities. [180] It was a night replaying its corrosive recurrence on the road of our lives, on the road which was hungry for great transformations. [180] Her eyes were narrowed as if they were endlessly trying to exclude most of what they saw. [228] "Can you understand what the rats are saying?" "No. But I can kill them." "Why?"

166. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (Vintage, 2003*; 226) is a curious and fantastic book in its approach, vision, and perspectives. It is a bold indicator of the vastness of the novel landscape and how tiny the portion we have explored in this land; after all, it isn't for nothing that the world 'novel' also means 'fresh', 'new', 'refreshing' as all these three superlatives will accurately describe what Haddon has done with this book. The book is unique on several fronts: as a detective story, and like all detective stories, the protagonist is investigating a murder; however, the murdered is not a chief executive who had double-dealings, nor is it a child who had early on been molested. It is also not a woman who had divorced her husband or jilted a boyfriend. In this novel, the protagonist - Christopher John Francis Boone - is investigating the death of Wellington, a neighbour's dog. And Christopher is fif

165. SHORT STORY MONDAY: Indigo by Molara Wood

Idera and Jaiye have come back to Nigeria, from London, to settle. But the cultural differences between these two places are oceans apart. In their London environment, they could defy parents insistence for them to have children. There is no 'gang-up' pressure on them to bear children and no one is going to gossip about 'a married couple who have decided not to have children, just yet' or going to reprimand you or be cheeky towards you just because you have no children; because not bearing children or deciding not to does not make you unique or weird. But in Nigeria, or in Africa, these things do matter. And Idera and Jaiye have to face the consternation of several family members, friends, and completely unknown individuals who regard this decision not to have children after five years of marriage as weird and un-African, a sign of having become too westernised. It is here that the major reason for their decision will be tested: did they make it based on logic, o

Quotes for Friday from Aldous Huxley's Brave New World

'We condition them to thrive on heat,' concluded Mr Foster. 'Our colleagues upstairs will teach them to love it..' 'And that,' put in the Director sententiously, 'that is the secret of happiness and virtue - liking what you've got  to do. All conditioning aims at that: making people like their unescapable social destiny'. [12] 'I am I, and I wish I wasn't' [55] A physical shortcoming could produce a kind of mental excess. The process, it seemed, was reversible. Mental excess could produce, for its own purposes, the voluntary blindness and deafness of deliberate solitude, the artificial impotence of asceticism. [59] Words can be like X-rays, if you use them properly - they'll go through anything. You read and you're pierced. [60] When people are suspicious with you, you start being suspicious with them. [60] The greater a man's talents, the greater his power to lead astray. It is better than one should su

164. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Brave New World (Vintage Books, 1932; 329) by Aldous Huxley - with introductions by Margaret Atwood and David Bradshaw - is a dystopian novel that uses scientific, social and economic developments of the time to describe, through extrapolation, the way life is likely to be if we stick to that developmental trajectory tenaciously. In this book, set in A.F. 632 (the year of Our Ford or 2540 AD), mass production techniques, as developed by Henry Ford when he first built his Ford T Model, and mass consumption are the economic development paradigms. Ford's role in the story or in the life of the inhabitants of this new world was akin to that of God in the AD; for instance people say 'Oh Ford!' and not 'Oh God'. Religion is an anathema and production and consumption are its replacements. Several years after the strategic war, the World State has been created. This World State, which is a highly-civilised and economically and scientifically developed society, is in

163. SHORT STORY MONDAY: The King and I by Novuyo Rosa Tshumba

Novuyo Rosa Tshumba's The King and I  follows the life of two friends Nana and Sipho and how each turned out differently in the end. It also shows that being from a poor background isn't necessarily a recipe for success as has been captured in numerous stories and numerous African movies. And that sometimes people from seemingly rich, or somewhat endowed, background do succeed even if they are helped by their parents' wealth, name, or position or some sort of combination of these. Nana and Sipho meet in a university in South Africa. Sipho is a Zimbabwean whose father is into politics whilst Nana is from Ghana. Sipho is better off than Nana and can afford to use a car on campus. They live all the lives students live: heavy drinking among others. Nana lives with Hannah, a Sudanese girl. These friends, like most students on campus, are political aware and have been influenced by Karl Max. They talk of socialism, African consciousness and Nana dreams of becoming the next

Quotes for Friday from Fiona Leonard's The Chicken Thief

Solidarity amongst chickens had been the death knell of many a careless thief. [4] If someone were to clip his wings he would bleed to death at their feet before the knife had even finished slicing through the air. [109] Humans claimed to be incredibly smart, and yet they spent their lives constantly dismissing the obvious. Hear a noise once, catch a glimpse of something they can't quite see, and they will tell themselves it's nothing, and blunder vacantly on, only to act surprised when the avalanche hits. Animals are not so stupid. Animals know that there is only a whisper between a second hearing and death. [201] With women it really was impossible to do the right thing. No matter how hard you tried you were always in trouble. All that changed was how much. [217] He missed talking to her, missed being able to sit long enough that words and meanings had time to work themselves out, instead of staying twisted up like rubber bands in a drawer. [240] Did you

162. The Chicken Thief by Fiona Leondard

The Chicken Thief (2011; 340) by Fiona Leonard has been described as a political thriller of sorts. Set in an unnamed African country, it provides a different take on the struggle for independence in a southern Africa country. Though the country is unnamed, there were several flagpoles which point to Zimbabwe: for instance, the president had been in power for a long time (about twenty-five years in the story), there was a bush war that led to independence, they shared boundaries with Namibia and South Africa and other idiosyncrasies. The story might have evolved from a kind of several 'what if...' questions and the material is this country's struggle for independence and the people involved. The past which served as the basis for the story and the present actions of the characters was developed mainly through dialogue. And the story itself spans a period of about five days. Assuming that in the struggle for independence, there were seven main leaders. But at the

161. SHORT STORY MONDAY: The Journey by Valerie Tagwira

Valerie Tagwira's The Journey  traces the unpleasant path a mother had to take to keep her family together and to raise her two children as a single parent. It shows how the vicious cycle of poverty traps individuals and sometimes vitiate them to levels they never thought was possible. Reading this story one realises that just as there seems to be no different between genius and insanity there is also very little distance between right and wrong and between 'Yes' and 'Never'. If there be a story that fortifies that saying 'never say never' this is it. Shingai has lost her husband. She has gone for his pension, and after refusing to share it with his family, had used it all up in two years. She has also lost her market space after she fell ill and had to hawk on streets. Now her rent is up and the only thing she has is the ring Tendai had given her. She decided to pawn it to pay the rent but the price offered her was smaller than the value she put on i

Caine Prize for African Writing Shortlist

The shortlist for the thirteenth Caine Prize for African Writing was released on May 1st, 2012. The shortlist was announced by the new vice-president of the prize Ben Okri. The Chair of judges, author and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature Bernardine Evaristo MBE, has described the shortlist as 'truly diverse fiction from a truly diverse continent.' The 2012 shortlist comprises: Rotimi Babatunde (Nigeria): Bombay's Republic from Mirabilia Review Vol. 3.9 (Lagos, 2011) Billy Kahora (Kenya): Urban Zoning  from McSweeney's Vol. 37 (San Francisco, 2011) Stanley Kenani (Malawi): Love on Trial  from For honour and Other Stories published by eKhaya/Random House Struik (Cape Town, 2011) Melissa Tandiwe Myambo (Zimbabwe): La Salle de D é part from Patrick of the Spindle Vol. 4.2 (New Orleans, June, 2010) Constance Myburgh (South Africa): Hunter Emmanuel  from Jungle Jim Issue 6 (Cape Town, 2011) Selected from 122 entries from 14 African countries Bern

160. Harvest of Thorns by Shimmer Chinodya

Title: Harvest of Thorns Author: Shimmer Chinodya Genre: Fiction/Colonialist/Race Publishers: AWS Classics Pages: 248 Year: 1989 Country: Zimbabwe Shimmer Chinodya is one of the few Zimbabwean authors I have read whose works explore the struggle for independence from the stand point of the fighters and the general pulse of the nation at the time and is able to provide cogent argument for it without questioning, unnecessarily, the human cost. Not that he assumes that all the black Zimbabweans at the time were in support of the war; he accepts the human loss but Chinodya presents his work in such a way that make the struggle more significant, for the coloniser will not grant freedom to the colonised without a struggle and there is no struggle without its human loss and if you expect otherwise then you really don't know what you want. Most Zimbabwean literature, especially those published a decade or two after the war, makes it look as if the war was irrelevant and

April in Review and Projections for May

April was my lowest point, so far. With only five books, I was one book below the minimum to achieve my overall reading target of 70; however, major advances in the first three months would make this setback disappear in terms of averages. That's the beauty of averages, the simple arithmetic type. The month saw me read, as stated already, all the five books I projected to read at the beginning of the month . These five books totalled 1569 pages, at a rate of 52.30 pages per day. This also gives an average of 314 pages per book. Regardless of this somewhat low point, I completed two challenges: the Africa Literature Reading Challenge hosted by Kinna and the Chunkster Challenge . The following books were read in this period: The Famished Road by Ben Okri . This book completed the Chunkster Challenge. It is the fourth above-450 pages book I've read this year, after I set out to read one per month to complete this challenge. The Famished Road is an interesting book and