Africa on the page
So... what have you been reading?
I thought this blog might take an occasional unguided safari into the world of books that deal, in some way or other, with Africa. What's the best, worst, most original, factual, fictional page-turner that you've come across this year?
I don't (mercifully) police the comments section below, but how about we make an unofficial rule - no entry without a book suggestion tucked under your arm?
Anyone with an interest in development and Africa will probably have heard of Dambisa Moyo's provocative and highly enjoyable Dead Aid. But while she rolls a grenade into the boardroom of Western "do-gooding," Stephen Ellis wields a scalpel. I would urge you to dig out his book, Season of Rains. Behind the rather fragrant title lurks a hard-headed, big-picture, bang-up-to-date analysis of the big themes confronting the continent. The chapters on China, on the challenges and definitions of "statehood," and on Africa's overlooked indigenous structures, are particularly strong. A good starting point for reassessing places like Somalia. Mr Ellis offers a view from the treetops, in a region where too many of us are stuck in ideological ruts.
Speaking of ruts, and having noted all the vehement pro- and anti-Western comments on my recent blogs from Ivory Coast, I've just been reading Adekeye Adebajo's The Curse of Berlin - Africa After the Cold War. Mr Adebajo has more axes to grind than Mr Ellis and a choppier narrative, but his historical analysis is sharp and shrewd, and so is his dissection of "Afrophobia," and the new institutions struggling to build "security, hegemony, and unity," on the continent.
On a different note... the best thriller you'll ever read has finally hit foreign bookshops, three years after it was first published here in South Africa.
In a Different Time tells the story of four members of the ANC's armed wing, captured after carrying out a series of assassinations and bombings, and put on trial during the dying days of the apartheid regime. Will the men be executed before democracy arrives? And what of the government death squad's own bomb-making plans, which punctuate the narrative with a tick-tock tension?
Peter Harris's book is chilling, profoundly insightful, and heartbreaking. It is also true. Mr Harris was the lawyer representing the "Delmas Four" during their sensational trial. He tells a murky tail with economy and clarity. In a Different Time now has a new, but equally unsatisfying title: A Just Defiance.