Book review: Disgrace, by J. M. Coetzee

African Literature Reviews | DisgraceJohn M. Coetzee, in his novel, Disgrace (1999), explores the challenges that members of European community face in post-apartheid South Africa. The author focuses on the career and private life of the main character in the novel, David Lurie, as a pointer to the injustices meted against European minorities within the South African society. It would occur to one as common knowledge, for reference and attribution of social oppression and injustices as directed towards African individuals within the given African state. However, in the course of the novel, Coetzee manages to weave out a clear picture on the sufferings of European individuals, as they are faced with animosity and are forced out their homes and property. The author additionally explores…continue reading this review


Writer Review: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Birth: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born in Enugu state of Nigeria (1977) and grew up in the University town of Nsuka. Her parents were members of the Academic staff at the University, which partly ensured her early exposure to the world of academia. She is currently among the highest critically acclaimed authors of contemporary African Literature. Her literary writing is part of a wider style that has served to change the face of African Literature as perceived by the rest of the world.

African Literature Authors - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Education: Chimamanda has a strong foundation in formal education and training. With focus on her attainment of higher education, she studied medicine and pharmacy at the University of Nigeria before moving to the United States for further studies.

    >Communications and Political science – Drexel University
    >Master’s Degree in Creative writing – Johns Hopkins University
    >Master of Arts Degree in African Studies – Yale University

Honors and Awards: The international reception of her literary work is characterized by numerous honors and awards. Some of the awards, honors and nominations Chimamanda has received include:

    > Caine Prize for African Writing (2002)
    >Commonwealth Short Story Competition – Nomination (2002)
    >BBC Short Story Competition (2002)
    >David T. Wong International Short Story Prize (2003)
    >O. Henry Prize (2003)
    >Orange Prize (2004)
    >Booker Prize (2004)
    >Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (2005)
    >Orange Broadband Prize (2007)
    >Reader’s Digest Author of the Year Award (2008)
    >MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant (2008)
    >Commonwealth Writers’ Prize: Best Book (2010)
    >National Book Critics Circle Award (2013)
    >Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction (2014)

Published Works: Some of the works written and published by Chimamanda currently hold position as bestselling titles in different parts of the world in addition to translation into over a dozen languages. Published titles by the author include: Americanah (2013); The Thing Around Your Neck (2009); Half of a Yellow Sun (2006); Purple Hibiscus (2003).

Writer Review: Mariama Ba

Birth: Mariama Ba was born in Senegal (1929) and died in 1981. She grew up in a well-to-do, working class family. She experienced the difficulties encountered by women in her largely patriarchal Muslim community. Mariama Ba later married and after sometime divorced a prominent member of parliament in the Senegalese government, further adding to her challenges as a woman in the context of her community.

African Literature Authors - Mariama Ba

Mariama Ba

Education: Mariama Ba succeeded in obtaining formal education, mainly through overcoming the blocks put in place by her male chauvinistic community. With the assistance of her father, she was able to advance academic levels up to the attainment of higher education, something unusual in her community with respect to women. Most women at her time never got the opportunity to proceed past the primary school level of education. She excelled in Law studies, which paved her way into career and activism world. The place of women and the struggles they encounter are evident themes in Mariama’s literary work. She has been identified as a feminist, in addition to her reputation as an acclaimed African Literature author, mainly writing in French.

Honors and Awards: Mariama Ba is widely regarded as one of the most influential activists with regards to advocating for women rights. She not only engaged activism through discussion, but also through her writings. Awards and honors awarded to her include:

    >Noma Award for Publishing in Africa (1981)

Published Works: So Long a Letter (1981); Scarlet Song (1986); The Political Function of African Written Literatures (1981)

Writer Review: Chinua Achebe

Birth: Chinua Achebe (Also Known as Chinua Chinualumogu Achebe) was a Nigerian Author, born in the village of Ogidi, Nigeria (1930). Chinua Achebe was raised by parent converted to the newly introduced Christian religion at the time. He grew up around a culture of story-telling, where elders in his environment were constantly telling stories. This greatly influenced his later style of writing, which borrowed heavily from Oral literature/tradition and altered the form of language in his writing, to communicate the authentic African experience (‘Igbonised’ English).

Chinua AchebeEducation: Achebe got the opportunity to attend missionary schools, where he performed well and in an exemplary manner. At an early age, he enrolled at St. Phillips Central School, where he quickly moved up the academic levels due to his outstanding academic performance. He thereafter proceeded with his secondary school education after joining the Dennis Memorial Grammar School and later on the Government College, which required high academic performance as a requirement for admission.

Achebe attended the University of Ibadan (in Nigeria) after receiving a scholarship to study medicine at the Institution of higher learning. While at the University, Achebe enrolled for different subjects, which resulted to loss of scholarship. He however managed to finance his University education to completion. It was while a student at the University of Ibadan that his writing career began to take shape. He interacted with some of the great world writers (through books) and began to have doubts regarding the popularly up-held imperialist views regarding African culture. Achebe’s reality of the African culture was not similar to that reflected by the colonial educational approach.

The need to create an impression of the African culture he knew (not the one proposed by the colonial masters, propelled Achebe to start writing about the African culture).

Honors and Awards: In the course of his writing career, Chinua Achebe was popularly hailed as the father of African Literature. He is acknowledge as having paved the way for many more African writers and additionally influenced the course of writing African Literature, through his published literary works. In the timeline of his writing career, Achebe was a recipient of numerous honors and awards, including:

    > Margaret Wrong Memorial Prize (1959)
    > Rockefeller travel fellowship to East and Central Africa (1960)
    > Nigerian National Trophy (1961)
    > UNESCO fellowship for creative artists for travel to the United States and Brazil (1963)
    > Jock Campbell/ New Statesman Award (1965)
    > Commonwealth Poetry Prize (1972)
    > Neil Gunn International Fellow, Scottish Arts Council (1975)
    > Lotus Award for Afro-Asian Writers (1975)
    > Nigerian National Merit Award (1979)
    > Commonwealth Foundation senior visiting practitioner award (1984)
    > Booker Prize nomination (1987)

Published Works: Since his University years up to his retirement, Chinua Achebe remained actively involved in the creation and writing of literary works. His debut novel was Things Fall Apart (1958), which remains a world acclaimed novel and recommendation in academia circles. The novel has enjoyed international recognition for a number of past decades. Other works written and published by Chinua Achebe include:

Marriage Is A Private Affair (1952); Dead Men’s Path (1953); No Longer at Ease (1960); Arrow of God (1964); A Man of the People (1966); Civil Peace (1971); Beware, Soul-Brother, and Other Poems (1971); An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” (1975); The Trouble with Nigeria (1984); Anthills of the Savannah (1987); Hopes and Impediments (1988); Another Africa (1998); Home and Exile (2000); There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra (2012).

Writer Review: Ngugi Wa Thiong’o

Birth: Ngugi Wa Thiong’o was born in Kenya, 1938. He was among several children in a large peasant family. He grew up in the period marked by Kenya’s struggle for independence and self-rule. The Maumau war was an initiation of the indigenous Kenyan people in their struggle for independence.

African Literature Writer - Ngugi Wa Thiong'o

Ngugi Wa Thiong’o

Education: Ngugi benefited from the education introduced in Kenya by Christian missionaries then. In some of his public lectures, ngugi has mentioned of his conflict while trying to acquire formal education.

He received his primary school education at Kamandura, Manguu and Kinyogori schools. He later attended Alliance High School for his secondary school education (all in Kenya) and afterwards Makerere University College (then a campus of London University) at Kampala, Uganda. Ngugi furthered his studies at the University of Leeds, Britain.

Honors and awards: Ngugi is a recipient of seven Honorary Doctorates:

    Viz D Litt (Albright)
    PhD (Roskilde)
    D Litt (Leeds University)
    D Litt &Ph D (Walter Sisulu University)
    PhD (Carlstate)
    D Litt (Dillard) and
    D Litt (Auckland University).

Ngugi Wa Thiong’o – Published Works: The Black Hermit-a play (1963); Weep Not, Child (1964); The River Between (1965); A Grain of Wheat(1967); A Meeting in the Dark(1974); The Trial of Dedan Kimathi(1976); I Will Marry When I Want(1977); Petals of Blood(1977); Devil on the Cross [originally written in gikuyu – Caitaani mutharaba-Ini](1980); Matigari(1989); Wizard of the Crow(2006); Dreams in a Time of War: a Childhood Memoir(2010); In the House of the Interpreter: A Memoir(2012).

Book Review: A Meeting in the Dark, by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o

The short story “A meeting in the Dark” (1974) by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o is set in Gikuyuland (central Kenya) and John is the name of the leading character. He is among the few educated members of his community who got the opportunity to acquire education offered by Christian missionaries to the region. The author accounts for Johns’ determination in his studies, and how his hard work in the course of school had pays off. He secures a place in one of the leading learning institutions in the region and outside the country.

In the course of the short story, there is a vivid description of the culture and environment surrounding Johns’ community. There is the mention of African traditional huts, built according to the African authentic style. As the author describes, the activities around the village give a clear picture of the community’s’ way of life. Then there is Johns’ immediate family. There is the father, a man distant from johns’ reality and view of life. Occasionally, John inwardly directs feelings of anger at his deeply religious father. He however manages to find confidence and solace in his mother, who is more understanding. Susana (Johns’ mother) takes conscious note of her sons’ growth and emotional development. Johns’ father remains detached from his sons’ troubled state of mind.

Wamuhu is Johns’ lover; with whom he expects a child. At the same time, John awaits his departure from the country in pursuit of further studies. Wamuhu (Johns’ lover) is not ready to lead life as a single mother, so she insists on Johns’ participation in the upbringing of the child. That means sacrificing the opportunity to further his studies. In the end John ends up making a worse choice, compared to owning up to his responsibility as a father (to wamuhu’s unborn child) or giving up his opportunity to study abroad. In a state of confusion and panic, he strangles Wamuhu to death. Ngugi concludes his story with the statement – “… he had created, then killed”
Ngugi’s story once again gives evidence of his excellent story-telling skills. He dramatizes the merging of different cultures through the relationship of john and Wamuhu. The backgrounds of the young people stand in opposition to each others’ ways, making their marriage and union close to impossible. The author succeeds in arousing imagination for the recreation of the typical Kikuyu village. The description of communal activities surrounding the village social life and the aspirations of john to leave the country for further studies at Makerere, are almost tangible. The conflict between the African traditional lifestyle and the colonizers’ impressions on the African culture is further evident in the course of the story. The state of johns’ confusion and panic results to killing Wamuhu. John embodies the merging of the African and foreign European culture. The attempt of John to still Wamuhu’s voice and disown the product of their union (Wamuhu’s pregnancy), results to the ‘death’ of the African traditions.

Ngugi Wa Thiong’o succeeds in drawing a clear picture of the need for merging the African traditional ways of life, with that of the foreign European culture. In the event of merging cultures, neither tradition is subordinate to the other, for they share a level platform in terms of authority. The African traditional way of life is in every way complete and ‘logical’ in organization and structure, as compared to the European way of life. An acceptance of both worlds is the way to a meaningful future.

Writer Review: Ngugi Wa Thiong’o

Ngugi Wa TRhiong'o

African Literary writer

Ngugi wa Thiong’o is a novelist and theorist with focus on post-colonial literature. He also serves as a Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature and English at University of California, Irvine. Read extended Biography of the author.

© African Literature reviews, 2014

Decolonizing The Mind – Summary and Response

An educative evaluation on the role of Language in the presentation of literature. From the book “Decolonizing the mind”-by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o.

WRT102.06: Reading, Writing, & Literacy

Ngugi’s “Decolonizing The Mind” is an essay on language and how it communicates the culture of it’s users. Ngugi begins his essay by telling the reader about his life growing up in Kenya. He states they all spoke “Gikuyu”, and all told many stories about animals or humans. The over-arching theme of these stories were about the “apparent” weak outwitting the  strong, or how a disaster forces co-operation (998). He continues to describe what makes a good story-teller. A good story teller, according to Ngugi, is one that is able to use language to make the same story seem interesting, and make stories told by others more exciting (998). Ngugi then goes on to describe the intruding colonization that occurred. Rapidly, everything he knew about his life was suppressed, and replacing it was the English language. English became to dominate language to learn, and anyone caught speaking Gikuyu was lashed. The only way to…

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