Africa is blessed with many great writers. But for me, there are some classics you just must read if you want to have an idea of what African Literature has been and what it has now evolved to be. So these are my top five!
- Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe: The novel basically opened up the discourse on African literature. Set in Eastern Nigeria during the colonial era, Achebe through characters like Okonkwo and the district commissioner shows culture clash as one of the major issues Africans had to contend with under the white man’s rule. The story is beautiful.
- A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o: Every page in this book drew me into the Kenyan struggle for independence. Mugo, a man who is celebrated as a hero and perceived as awesome shocks us by being the one who betrayed Kihika, the beloved fighter of the Mau Mau Freedom. Themes of betrayal, pain, struggle and ultimately, political victory makes this a must read.
- Lion and the Jewel by Wole Soyinka: Though written as a play, this book is filled with humour without it losing the core message of culture clash and power struggle. Characters like Baroka, Sidi and Lakunle help in the building of this plot as Baroka and Lakunle compete for the love of Sidi, the village damsel.
- Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta: Emecheta’s ability to tell a story is what makes me devour her books. Joys of Motherhood tells the tragic tale of Nnu-Ego who is unable to bear children and is thrown out of her husband’s house. When she begins to have children by another husband, she slaves for them only for them to abandon her later.
- The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born by Ayi Kwei Armah: Set in Ghana, the novel explores themes like corruption and poverty that plague the Ghanaian society even after independence. A character just known as ‘The Man’ wants to do right but is under pressure to succumb to societal pressures by a wife who wants a better life. The novel is deeply intriguing and wakes up the reader’s conscience.
I could go on and on as Beautiful African Classics abound. What are the classics you have read and they make your top five? Please feel free to share in the comment section.