Wednesday, December 7, 2016


For me, it has always been a crying shame that relatively very few African readers - even lovers of creative fiction - appreciate this type of work. Certainly over the decades this book has been acknowledged as a classic, and justifiably so. The brilliant academic/critic here makes lots of controversial remarks/conclusions, but the important thing is that he introduces us to many early great African novelists in stupendous fashion. Even in his polemical introduction - where the author apparently undermines fine African writers like Achebe, Lenrie Peters, and Wole Soyinka, the author still writes impressively on them all (Soyinka was still quite young then, but his sublime works would ensure that he went on to become the first African to garner the Nobel Prize in literature). Quand meme, the author/critic goes on to analyze some outstanding African novelists and authors in depth. One might be surprised that he claims Chinua Achebe resorts to "melodramatics" in his (second) novel, No longer at ease; but I have met many literary aficionados over the years who have affirmed that pertinently, the behaviour of the lady, Clara, is actually what one would expect from such a beleaguered young woman in such a was up to Obi (the male protagonist) to fight for her if he really wanted to do so. The author acknowledges Ngugi as a very good writer too, though he appears to dub the author as a bit "naïve, promising" in regards his first novel, Weep not child. For many of us though, the greatness of Ngugi has been very much obvious from his initial works. By the time prof ? considers Ngugi's A grain of wheat in this work, he sings his praises as a creative writer to high heavens! Again one might be a bit startled that the critic has some doubts about a superb work like Camara Laye's African Child, but at least he considers the same Laye's novel, The radiance of the king to be quite excellent. The themes of this work appeal - eg the idea of a white man (Clarence) coming to Africa and morphing in the process sort of reverses what world was used to at the time. There are kudos for Mongo Beti too, an "ironical" author; and Ayi Kwei Armah who had stunned the world at the time with his "The beautyful ones are not yet born"... The critic has a lot of time for Gabriel Okara's novel, The Voice, "a short work" which apparently delivers strong moral, cultural and even syntactic messages than much longer works of fiction have done. The critic, as usual, quotes liberally from The Voice, a "strange" but convincing work. Looking back now on the literary landscape, one might find it incongruous that the critic here apparently rated an author like Okara higher than the likes of Soyinka, Peters and Ekwensi, but that's literary criticism for you!!
- Eric Malome

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