Saturday, 21 January 2012

Africa Reading Challenge

I discovered, via ImageNations, that there's an Africa Reading Challenge coming up, hosted at Kinna's blog:


The entire African continent, including its island-states, which are often overlooked. Please refer to this Wikipedia. Pre-colonial empires and regions are also included.

Reading Goal

5 books.  That’s it.  There will be no other levels.  Of course, participants are encouraged to read more than 5 books.  Eligible books include those which are written by African writers, or take place in Africa, or are concerned with Africans and with historical and contemporary African issues. Note that at least 3 books must be written by African writers.


  • Fiction – novels, short stories, poetry, drama, children’s books.  Note: You can choose to read a number of individual and uncollected short stories.  In this case, 12 such stories would constitute 1 book.  Individual poems do not count but books of poetry do.
  • Non-fiction – memoirs, autobiographies, history and current events

Reading Suggestions

  • Cover at least two regions, pick from North Africa, Southern Africa, East Africa, West Africa and Central Africa
  • Include translated fiction from Arabic, Francophone and Lusophone literature
  • You can mix classic and contemporary fiction
  • If you are intend to read mostly non-fiction, then please include at least one book (out of the five) of fiction
Read Kinna's blog for a more detailed post about it. This seems like a very good idea. Not that I need a challenge to force myself to read African literature: I'm already a fan of Pepetela, Mia Couto, Naguib Mahfouz, J.M. Coetzee, Wole Soyinka, Ondjaki, José Eduardo Agualusa, and Luís Bernardo Honwana. But if I can reconcile my reading with an ongoing project involving several readers, it'll certainly be more interesting and even productive, if we can get each other to discover new authors.

So here's my tentative book list:

1) Yaka, Pepetela (Angola)
2) O Planalto e a Estepe, Pepetela (Angola)
3) O Fio das Missangas, Mia Couto (Mozambique)
4) A Conjura, José Eduardo Agualusa (Angola)
5) The Island, Athol Fugard (South Africa)

Four of these are not available in English. Can you guess which ones? I'm sure this won't be a problem; in fact I hope to use this opportunity to make people aware of the excellent Portuguese-speaking African literature that, unfortunately, seldom transcends national borders. I throw in Fugard, a playwright, because I'm curious to read more African theater after a good experience with Soyinka's plays.

Now let's read some African books.


  1. I've only read one Pepetela (in English) and I have The Book of Chameleons by Agualusa. I will read them for the challenge. Have you heard of Teolinda Gersao. She has a novel title The Book Tree (English title) which was translated by Margaret Jull Costa. The book is set in Mozambique. Enjoy your reading for the challenge and thanks for participating.

    1. The Book of Chameleons is a wonderful book: it was my introduction to Agualusa. I know Gersão's reputation: although I haven't read anything by her, she's a respected novelist.

      I'm sure I'll love the ARC.

  2. My reading is also tending towards Europe these days with all those recommendations from WLF.. Last year was pathetic in terms of reading African Literature. 5 is a reasonable goal. I will join you in this journey..

    1. Great, another one :-)

      In spite of everything, I read a reasonable amount of African literature every year. Writers like Mia Couto and Pepetela play very prominent roles in Portuguese literature. There isn't a sense of distance, which I feel exists in relation to Soyinka or Achebe and English literature. So 5 books for me will be easy.