Most Famous Literature Book in Africa

We shall be highlighting the most famous Literature book in Africa that you may have already been familiar with. Therefore, patiently look over some of these popular books as written by great African writers like Wole Soyinka, Ben Okri, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, to name but a few.

Most Famous Literature Book in Africa

Here are the most famous Literature book in Africa that you can ever find amusing, intriguing, and revealing of the African socio-cultural, socio-political, socio-economic realities. Each of these books has been read across the shores of the world and is reckoned with as not just the best but also the masterpieces of the African heritage.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Starting the most famous Literature book in Africa from Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, there is not much to talk about this book. It is undoubtedly one of the world’s best resourced from African history with the West. Perhaps the single most famous piece of African literature, Achebe’s first novel is a two-part story about Ibo tribesman Okonkwo.  The story narrates African life prior to the arrival of colonial powers, and then the subsequent colonization of Nigeria by Britain.

Petals of Blood by Ngugi wa Thiong’o

Petals of Blood looks at the interconnectedness between four murder suspects in the wake of the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya.  The novel is a skeptical look at postcolonial Kenyan politics and the impossibility of escaping a colonial past.

 Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee

In Disgrace, a middle-aged professor of Romantic poetry finds himself observing the ritual of a relatively happy life in which his sexual needs are adequately taken care of. He appears to be content but secretly yearns for more. Disturbed by the knowledge that his old charms have fled him, he finds comfort in an anxious flurry of promiscuity. An enchanting liaison with a prostitute is followed by a reckless affair with a young student, and his “ordered” existence becomes shattered.

Coetzee weaves with brutal, admirable grace a troubling story in which the professor, in a bid to escape the consequences of his action, finds refuge in his daughter’s isolated smallholding in post-apartheid South Africa where retributive violence is stoked by racial conflicts.

There the turn of events will afflict him with punishments worse than he could possibly bear, leaving his innocent daughter a victim; leaving also, the lasting message that retribution must be avoided if we are to ultimately escape its ugly legacies. In the incontrovertible disgrace of a once-brilliant professor, lessons are there to be learned for a nation torn by racial divisions.

Season of Crimson Blossoms by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim

Season of Crimson Blossoms is a beautiful-sad story told with great artistry. Against a backdrop of tragic family histories brought about by ruthless politicking and religious extremism, Binta, a devout middle-aged Muslim widow, and Reza, a young weed-smoking gangster, begin an illicit affair.

Haunted by the painful memory of loss in a hypocritical society which uses religion to promote hatred and violence, Binta experiences a primal desire to save her lover from a life of crime. But is it love or the quest for redemption that emboldens her to listen to her heart for once? A combination of both, maybe?

Whatever, it is an affair that foretells grave danger, for Binta especially. But already held a prisoner by the hopeless yearnings of her own heart, she finds it impossible to apply the brakes. And as the affair festers and consumes her and her lover, Binta realizes that she is living in a society that will never allow her to find love, even if she chooses to steal it. As for Reza, he is confined by society never to find fulfillment, not even redemption.

This deceptively simple novel, one of the most famous literature book in Africa, is about a young woman, coming of age at a time of rapid social change in Kenya. The wind of change is blowing through the land as Kenya gains independence and Paulina, only 16, arrives in the city to join her new husband, Martin. A recent arrival in the city himself, Martin straddles the rural and urban divide: his visions of life are often seen through the side-mirror, peering into a past that he lived in the village.

The uncertainty that abounds as Paulina navigates the city’s labyrinth reflects the anxieties that roil the land. For a while, Martin’s heavy-handedness procures her cooperation, but does not quell her desire for self-reliance and self-discovery.

Paulina’s journey towards freedom appears promising: a short-lived affair produces a child that Martin was unable to sire, and her professional career is blooming. But just as politicians trade away the promises of independence, the nation implodes in a rictus of riots that subsume her private dream.

MacGoye’s vision of Kenya is prophetic and Coming to Birth remains a cautionary tale about this great land, whose promise is saddled with peril, prolonging birth pains of the nation-building project.

A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi wa Thiong’o

Of the several dozen texts produced by Kenya and Africa’s foremost author, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, A Grain of Wheat remains a favorite. Forming part of his foundational trilogy— others are Weep Not, Child, and The River Between—this novel evaluated what political independence heralded for ordinary citizens in Kenya.

The narrative unfurls in a space of ten days before Independence celebrations in 1963, and captures the anxieties that linger as each group reviews what has been lost, and gained, as black majoritarian rule succeeds colonialism.

Echoes of Kenya’s freedom struggle pulsate through the book, as do the heroic deeds of ordinary folks in defense of their land against the Brits. The dominant narrative is that of Mugo, a hermit that locals mistake for a freedom hero, but who is privately burdened by troubles of his own. His unraveling signals the novel’s denouement.

What’s remarkable about this novel is that its political message does not compromise its artistic sophistication—as some critics lament of Ngugi’s subsequent offerings. The characters are complex and well-developed, the storyline unpredictable and absorbing.

From his lengthy and productive literary life, lasting more than half a century, A Grain of Wheat is an example of Ngugi at his finest.

Harvest of Skulls by Abdourahman A. Waberi

Harvest of Skulls revisits the genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1994 that resulted in more than a million deaths. Franco-Djiboutian author Abdourahman Waberi, one of francophone Africa’s leading voices, visited Burundi and Rwanda on several occasions in the aftermath of the genocide under the aegis of the Writing by Duty of Memory project, an initiative launched by the Fest’Africa Festival. Waberi’s book delivers an original narrative that is at the same time a journey through a turbulent continent.

Jazz and Palm Wine by Emmanuel Dongala

This collection of short stories, considered a classic work of African literature by the Congolese writer Emmanuel Dongala, is situated on both sides of the Atlantic.

Navigating between Africa and America, from the Communist experiments and ideals that defined the early years of political independence, considerations of the impact of brutal and repressive dictatorships, African mysticism, to the trials and tribulations of African America during the 1960s, framed in a profound fascination for jazz music in which the author finds equilibrium and salvation.

Native Life in South Africa by Sol Plaatje

Sol Plaatje was a political activist and intellectual fighting for the freedom of native Africans during colonization by both the British and the Dutch.  Plaatje was in many ways a forefather for Nelson Mandela, and Native Life in South Africa is one of the most important works in African literature.  In it, Plaatje makes an emotional plea for enfranchisement and basic human rights for black Africans suffering at the hands of colonialism.

The Famished Road by Ben Okri

In the current atmosphere of anti-migration in the world—the rise of the far-right in Europe, Brexit in Britain, Trump in the U.S., and xenophobia in South Africa—one wonders whether Azaro, the Abiku in Ben Okri’s The Famished Road, would still migrate from spirit to human realm.

Abiku are spirit children whose life cycles through birth, death, and rebirth. It is a game they play on their human parents. However, out of love of his mother, Azaro has defected; he does not die. His spirit companions, enraged, torture him relentlessly.

But Azaro has also given up a spirit world of magical beauty, a world that transcends geographical, racial, and cultural restriction, where mythical figures from different cultures coexist for a life circumscribed by race, place, and culture. He lives in a single room in a slum in Nigeria. Okri remains incisive on human inadequacies and the bullying of younger nations by developed ones.

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Adichie is considered an important figure in contemporary African literature, as she represents the next generation of authors following Achebe.  Purple Hibiscus takes place in post-colonial Nigeria, and is the painful coming-of-age story of a young girl in a disintegrating family.

The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu

This novel is a story about a hairdresser named Vimbai and her struggle to make a living and raise her son in modern day Harare, Zimbabwe.  Described by many critics as “bittersweet,” the novel is both humorous and dark at the same time.

A Bit of Difference by Sefi Atta

There is a way in which the details of this book imbue all the characters, from the major to the walk-ons, with an exuberance that means they live beyond the page. After living in London for many years and working as a financial expert for an international charity, 39-year-old Deola Bello returns home to her ultra-wealthy family in Ikoyi, Lagos, on the occasion of her father’s five-year memorial service.

But there is also a listlessness to her life that makes the homecoming all the more portentous. The novel seems to move on the engine of anecdotes. Back home, Deola’s mother nags her about the lack of grandchildren; through the lives of Deola’s sisters-in-law we observe the sober realities of patriarchy.

In a precise and blistering scene, Atta gives a picture of the Lagos elite: “Nigeria is where they are called ‘Madam’ and treated with respect. They pass on their sense of entitlement to their children through estates. They are Nigerian Tories.” The tone is wry, often caustic, but also humorous and moving.

I enjoyed the unabashed presence of opinions and I got the sense that Atta doesn’t feel the need to disguise ideas and debate in fiction, that for her (and I am thankful for this) they are one and the same.

Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila

Tram 83 is a bar in an unnamed African country, possibly Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo. A bar to rival all bars, perhaps the most intriguing and heart-breaking of bars I’ve ever come upon in a novel.

At the entrance to the watering hole is a sign: “ENTRY INADVISABLE FOR THE POOR, THE WRETCHED, THE UNCIRCUMCISED, HISTORIANS, ARCHAEOLOGISTS, COWARDS, PSYCHOLOGISTS…” and the list continues. This novel is full of lists, repeated unanswered questions and really long sentences. There is a playfulness in the words, an effective carelessness that reveals the painstaking poet. The story of two friends, Lucien the

writer and Requiem the crook, is told through their antics and conversations, the style frenetic. You could read Tram 83 as a ridiculous comedy or as a Kafkaesque tale. You could read it as bleak political commentary, that the “City-State,” somewhere beyond, has failed but also the world has failed, and people (men) come to Tram 83 to recover from their “bogus lives.” I was abraded by the fact that nearly all the women in the story are selling their bodies, only ever (thinly and rather brutally at that) characterized as the purveyors of sex. Beyond the brilliant and seductive riffs, I found this story problematic at times but also satisfyingly haunting in its juggling of depravity and hope.

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