So a few days ago, the RAS held its first event of the year ‘Africa in 2016’ – yours truly was one of the panellists, waxing lyrical about expectations for this year in the creative economy, with a focus on literature and film; I mentioned the launch of Cassava Republic in the UK, amongst other things, and that some of the big things in literature are going to be an exploration of Islam, and desire, respectively – and sometimes together. I couldn’t mention all the titles that spoke to the themes, and all the other titles we’re eagerly anticipating this year. So without further ado, here’s a list, in no particular order.
A much anticipated debut from one of the up and coming writers from Nigeria, and one rated highly by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The strapline for Port Harcourt native, Jowhor Ile’s novel is “an unforgettable debut novel about a boy who goes missing, a family that is torn apart, and a nation on the brink; and if that’s not enough to whet your apetite – read more on the PenguinRandomhouse site.
Behold the Dreamers By Imbolo Mbue (Cameroon)
Whatever the resulting assessment of its literary merits, it’s possible ‘Behold the Dreamers’ will always be known as the African book that bagged a million quid. Fittingly it is about the experiences of a Cameroonian chauffeur working for a Lehman’s Brothers employee at the height of the first (fingers crossed, only) financial crash of the 21st century. Mbue’s novel is apparently a literary triumph, as well as making its author – richer, it seems, than most novelists would dare to dream.
The Curious Case of Dassoukine’s Trousers – Fouad Laroui (Morocco)
Moroccan writer Fouad Laroui, a winner of France’s Prix Goncourt is to be published in translation for the first time in English. The book is a collection of short stories, across a dazzling array of literary styles.
Eve Out of Her Ruins – Ananda Devi (Mauritius)
Mauritian Ananda Devi’s novel with the lyrical title, ‘From Eve out of her Ruins’ – is also a work in translation, from one of the most prominent authors from the Indian Ocean region. This lovely site, ‘The Offing’ has an excerpt.
Under the Udala Trees By Chinelo Okparanta (Nigeria)
Caine Prize shortlisted writer Chinelo Okparanta’s debut novel is a daring novel set in the emotional and psychological landscape of Nigeria’s civil war, the Biafran war, a setting for a story in which Okparanta delivers what The Guardian describes as a gripping narrative ‘about a young gay woman’s coming of age in Nigeria’.
Ladivine – By Marie Ndaye (France/Senegal)
Perhaps the book, I’m most looking forward to reading is this from one of the French African diaspora’s most acclaimed writer. The strapline is enough: a harrowing and subtly crafted novel of a woman captive to a secret shame.
The Happy Marriage by Tahar Ben Jelloun (Morocco)
The latest novel by Morocco’s most acclaimed living writer focuses on the dissolution of a marriage between a renowned painter and his wife.
The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah (Zimbabwe)
From the winner of the Guardian First Book Prize 2009, The Book of Memory, comes out in paperback this year.
Taduno’s Song By Odafe Atogun (Nigeria) So, this novel from another young Nigerian author, is called Kafkaesque by the publishers, Canongate – following on the heels of Igoni Barrett’s Blackass, with its nod to Metamorphorsis – should we call this a trend? An ongoing mining of Kafka as a rich literary seam; to be seen, but the novel is by one account, beautiful. With canongate acquiring world rights, it is to be translated into German, Turkish and Spanish.
The Kindness of Enemies – By Leila Aboulela (Sudan/Scotland)
Leila Aboulela’s latest novel is a ‘tour de force’ exploration of Islamic cosmopolitanism; following the life of Natasha, a woman of Russian and Sudanese heritage, and her desperation to assimilate, Aboulela’s fifth novel is said to be epic, beautifully told, and a profound meditation on the meaning of home and belonging.
Like A Mule Bringing Ice-Cream to the Sun (Nigeria)
With its whimsically philosophical title, Sarah Ladipo Manyika’s novel weaves a brief but mesmerisingly beautiful web of words about the erotic, emotional and social life of book-loving, Morayo da Silva, a 75 year old Nigerian woman living in San Francisco, as she faces the threat of losing her independence.
Born on A Tuesday – By Elnathan John (Nigeria)
Published in Nigeria last year to great hype and enthusiasm, Elnathan John’s debut follows the story of a young Almajiri in Northern Nigerian; with beautifully realised characters, and a story that speaks to many of the pre-occupations of the age, John’s debut is an expected hit for publisher, Cassava Republic, when it launches in the UK.
Season of Crimson Blossoms – By Abubakar Ibrahim (Nigeria)
With perhaps the most, promisingly racy storyline amongst African novels to be published this year, Abubakar Ibrahim’s debut novel will certainly spark conversation amongst the literati. But it should also be celebrated for the lyricism of the work, or so says Ikhide, who wrote about the book for us, late last year.
Easy Motion Tourist – By Leye Adenle (Nigeria/UK)
Genre fiction, or at least, titles that follow the classic format of exploring crime and romance are one of the most fascinating and growing segments in contemporary African literature, and this debut fits right in. With a title that riffs on a song by Juju music legend, King Sunny Ade, Easy Motion Tourist gives Lagos the treatment Mukoma wa Ngugi gave Nairobi in his title Nairobi Heat. Lovers of that book – may very well make this a hit too.