Best African Writers of 2020

Photography above – Left: Wole Soyinka [File: Themba Hadebe/AP Photo] Right: Nanjala Nyabola

From fiction and non-fiction to essays and poetry, we bring you some of the African continent’s most exciting reads from this year. In a year that has lent itself to living in-doors, African authors offered up a host of worlds to escape to. Combining the keepers of the literary old guard and exciting new voices, the titles in our list featuring some of the best books by African writers published in 2020 excavate a forgotten history, reflect on life today and manoeuvre through an uncertain future. This selection is a mix of fiction and non-fiction, essays and poetry, all representing a truly exciting year in African literature.

  1. Chronicles of the Happiest People on Earth – Wole Soyinka

For the first time in nearly half a century, Wole Soyinka published a book in a year that turned out to be exceptional for many reasons. The Nigerian Nobel laureate’s 524-page novel Chronicles of the Happiest People on Earth tells the story of four earnest friends who formed a pact, promising to use their talents and hard work to make a meaningful change to their country, Nigeria. Years later, their enthusiasm is tempered by the comforts and compromises of ageing and the lingering disappointments of post-independence Nigeria. First available in Nigeria, the novel will be available globally next year.

  1. The First Woman/A Girl Is A Body of Water – Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

Who do you turn to when the adults will not answer your questions and your spirit leaves your body? In Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s second novel, you consult the village witch. Kirabo moves from an isolated village to a bustling Kampala to an elite boarding school as she tries to find answers while navigating her own rich internal life, and the uncertainty of Idi Amin’s dictatorship. In her prize-winning debut Kintu, which established her as an author who has created for herself a distinctive position in the African and global literary landscape, Nansubuga Makumbi examined Uganda’s origin myth in a thoroughly modern way. With The First Woman, also published under the title A Girl Is A Body of Water, Nansubuga Makumbi explores the power of women in a society bent on stripping them of it.

  1. Travelling While Black: Essays Inspired by a Life on the Move – Nanjala Nyabola

The passport is perhaps one of the clearest markers of national power, its power on display in queues at borders around the world. The relative humility of an African passport is not only felt in the arduous and expensive visa processes its carriers endure, but in the perceptions African tourists weather when we finally do cross the border. Humanitarian advocate and political analyst Nanjala Nyabola crosses into foreign nations with humour and insight. In Travelling While Black, an essay collection inspired by a life on the move, Nyabola reflects on a world that seems to prefer that she had stayed put in Nairobi, but also one that embraces her and teaches us all about belonging as she stands out. It is in the joy of not being noticed, however, that Nyabola subverts the dusty guidebook’s perceptions of travelling Africa and travelling while African.

  1. The Death of Vivek Oji – Akwaeke Emezi

Dead on the first page, one could assume where the story of Vivek Oji will go. But, as those left behind often find, it is only after their loved one dies that they learn how little they knew the person they claimed to love and know. In a small Nigerian town, the death of a misunderstood young man forces his family to question their own lives. Akwaeke Emezi’s third novel – after the acclaimed Freshwater and Pet – The Death of Vivek Oji has been described as a murder mystery, a family drama, a book that makes the invisible seen. That is Emezi’s gift, to inhabit worlds and genres and bend them to their will and bring home truths for the real world.

Read more here: Source Aljazeera

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