Readersforum's Blog

September 11, 2011

All Hail the African Renaissance: The Storymoja Hay Festival with the British Council in Nairobi

  Ellah Allfrey celebrates the recent explosion in the continent’s populist  novels, from chick-lit to science fiction.

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Next week the Hay Festival will be in Nairobi for the third annual Storymoja Hay Festival with the British Council. The successful extension of the Hay brand to Africa marks an interesting development in what has generally been a good decade for writers from the continent, but it has left me wondering what it means to be an “African writer”, and how the readers and the industry are responding to their success.

A recent article claimed that “Africa has replaced Scandinavia as the ‘capital of Crime’”, pointing to an explosion of crime fiction including Mukoma wa Ngugi’s debut, Nairobi Heat. Ishmael Fofona, his detective, may not as yet have taken over from Kurt Wallander in our affections, but I’m hoping it’s only a matter of time.

Crime is not the only genre that seems to be thriving. There is some science fiction being written (in the Gambian author Biram Mboob’s Harabella, for example, the whole of Africa is colonised by China) and even some chick-lit, with Lola Shoneyin’s The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives. Everywhere new authors are breaking free of the burdensome label “African writers” and for the first time there is a decent body of genre writing not only set in Africa, but written by Africans.

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August 22, 2011

African crime writers are gaining attention outside of the continent

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By Cary Darling

We sure have come a long way since Out of Africa and The Flame Trees of Thika.

In the second decade of the 21st century, some of the most compelling contemporary crime-fiction novels are either set in or coming from Africa. Much as Scandinavia became associated with the genre a few years back — thanks in large part to Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy — Africa may become a new capital of literary crime.

Cape Town’s Roger Smith, who writes with the brutal beauty of an Elmore Leonard in a very bad mood, is at the forefront. His 2009 debut, Mixed Blood, has been optioned for a film starring Samuel L. Jackson and directed by Phillip Noyce (Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger). His second book, Wake Up Dead, is also going Hollywood, with director Mark Tonderai (Hush) attached.

Meanwhile, his third novel, Dust Devils, has just been released as an e-book in the U.S. All of this activity follows on the heels of releases in the past year or so from Ghanaian-born/U.S.-based Kwei Quartey (Children of the Street), Nigeria’s Adimchinma Ibe (Treachery in the Yard), and South Africa’s Mike Nicol and Joanne Hichens, who write under the name Sam Cole (Cape Greed).

Coming in September are new works from Deon Meyer (Trackers) and fellow South Africans Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip, who write under the name Michael Stanley (Death of the Mantis: A Detective Kubu Mystery), and Kenyan-raised/U.S.-based Mukoma Wa Ngugi (Nairobi Heat). Just as the works of James Ellroy and Carl Hiaasen dig beneath the glitter and glamour of Hollywood and South Beach, respectively, to reveal a nasty, fetid underside, these books rip away images of the Sahara and safaris and go beyond nightly news pictures of deprivation and desperation.

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