Intriguing African Fiction, 2016

Sitting down to write about international fiction can be overwhelming simply because there is so much good stuff available, and any entry will inevitably leave so much out. Consider this a glimpse of interesting novels coming from outside our borders – in this case, coming from authors in countries throughout Africa.


Nigeria’s literary scene is booming. Blackass by A. Igoni Barrett is satire in which a young Nigerian man wakes up white – except for his ass – and sets off into Lagos to go job hunting. Born on a Tuesday by Elnathan John is a coming-of-age novel set in Northern Nigeria, as Dantala grows up surrounded by extremism and violence yet finds his way forward through faith. And After Many Days by Jowhor Ile is set on the Nigerian coast in 1995. A teenage boy goes missing, his disappearance ripping through his family as his younger brother searches for him and instead finds family secrets.

Two books to mention out of Zimbabwe. The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah is narrated as the personal account of a young albino woman named Memory, on death row for the murder of her white legal guardian. This is a story about the relationship of recollection to reality; appearance; and Zimbabwe’s political landscape. The Maestro, the Magistrate & the Mathematician by Tendai Huchu is about three Zimbabwean immigrants in Edinburgh, Scotland, each trying to make a new life while holding on to their sense of identity.


Tales of the Metric System by Imraan Coovadia is a collection of interconnected short stories that span 40 years in South African history – from 1970, through the end of apartheid, to the 2010 World Cup. Coovadia takes short moments in the lives of multiple narrators and strings them together in such a way that they illustrate South Africa’s cultural changes.

The Happy Marriage by Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun is the story of a marriage between a painter paralyzed by a stroke and the wife he refuses to see, even though they share a house. The marriage is seen first from the husband’s point of view, and then from the wife’s.

Available for the first time in English is Mozambican writer Paulina Chiziane’s 1990 novel The First Wife: A Tale of Polygamy. Rami discovers that her husband has four other families. Her reactions range from fighting to friendship, as Chiziane probes the roles of traditional cultures vs. colonizing cultures, and cultural differences between northern and southern Mozambique.

Kaveena by Senegalese author Boubacar Boris Diop, set in a fictitious West African country, is narrated by the former head of Secret Services as he reflects on the power struggle between the country’s dictator and a French shadow leader, the civil war engulfing his country, and how a mother’s quest for vengeance will bring about a reckoning.

 This post is the first in our Intriguing International Fiction series, an irregularly timed ongoing run of posts highlighting interesting fiction by international authors.

~ posted by Andrea G.

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