Africa on the bookshelf…

  • 1 November 2011
  • From the section Africa
  • comments

So… what have you been reading?

It's six months since I last asked that question and I thought it might be time for an update.

As before, burly but well-read bouncers will be policing the comments section below to ensure nobody tries to sneak in without a book recommendation of their own.

I'm just getting stuck into the entertaining Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese, which begins with the "unexpected" pregnancy of a nun in Addis Ababa. Before that came the lyrical Black Mamba Boy by Nadifa Mohamed; another eloquent tale of family and displacement - a "hymn" says the narrator - with echoes of Ben Okri.

Someone kindly sent me a copy of Looking for Transwonderland, by Noo Saro-Wiwa. The publisher describes it as "the first Nigerian travel-book for a hundred years." It's coming out in January. Noo is the daughter of the executed activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, and she makes an entertaining, thoughtful, often disappointed guide around a country she left as a child. The title refers to a dilapidated amusement park once commissioned by Nigeria's First Lady.

What else? I ended up skimming through Edward Paice's Tip and Run - a fascinating but rather long and detailed account of the First World War in East Africa - kindly recommended by someone on the previous blog. And speaking of great wars, Jason Stearns' Dancing in the Glory of Monsters wins my vote for the best title, as well as being an excellent account of the horrors and complexities of the conflicts in DR Congo.

If you're based in South Africa, it's worth keeping an eye on the Troyeville Hotel and its regular book launches. I was annoyed to miss Alexandra Fuller's recent appearance, but here's a link to her top 10 African memoirs. Any additions? I'd love to hear that Laurent Gbagbo was writing his account of his violent, ignominious fall.

Another literary event here in South Africa was recently branded a "circus" for rich whites. Fair?

With the ANC moving close to its 100th anniversary, I'm looking for good books - beyond the most obvious by authors like Sparks, Feinstein and Gumede - that explore its unique role in South Africa, and its uncertain future. I've read Fiona Forde's new book on Julius Malema but was left wanting much more.

And Libya... I didn't get a chance to read much during my time there this year. But I've heard a lot about Hisham Matar's In the Country of Men, and a friend has pointed me towards Alan Moorehead's reportage there from World War Two. Any other recommendations?