Sunday, June 16, 2019

Togara Muzanenhamo in Amsterdam



Waterstones are to welcome two outstanding poets to their bookshop at Kalverstraat 152, 1012XE, Amsterdam, on Tuesday 18 June at 19.00.

Togara, from Zimbabwe and Thomas, from The Netherlands will be reading from their work and answering your questions.

To reserve a seat for this free event please contact Amsterdam@waterstones.com
Entry is by reservation only. Please book early as places are limited.

Togara Muzanenhamo was born to Zimbabwean parents in Lusaka, Zambia in 1975. He was brought up in Zimbabwe, and then went on to study in The Hague and Paris. He became a journalist in Harare and worked for a film script production company. His work has appeared in magazines in Europe, South Africa and Zimbabwe, his collections Spirit Brides and Gumiguru are published by Carcanet, and his anthology with John Eppel, Textures, is published by amaBooks.

Thomas Möhlmann has published four books of poetry in Dutch and compiled eleven poetry anthologies in the Netherlands, Macedonia, Argentina, Colombia and the UK. He teaches at the Academy of Arts in Arnhem and the Amsterdam Writers Academy, and is one of the editors of Dutch poetry magazine Awater.



Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Shane Strachan and the Muriel Spark Society

Another amaBooks writer Shane Strachan has also appeared on the literary scene in Edinburgh, when he read from his short fiction collection Nevertheless: Sparkian Tales in Bulawayo at the Muriel Spark Society Annual General Meeting.

Olga Wojtas at The Saltire Society commented:
'Fascinating talk at the Muriel Spark Society AGM from Shane Strachan about his new book, Nevertheless, a series of short fictions celebrating Muriel Spark's 2018 centenary, The image on the screen behind Shane (below) is of the Lady Rodwell Maternity Hospital in Bulawayo, where Muriel Spark gave birth.'

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Shane said that he
'Was very nervous before reading from Nevertheless for the Muriel Spark Society in Edinburgh, but they loved it so much I sold out of the copies I had with orders for more 😁 And apparently Muriel’s longterm companion Penelope Jardine also enjoyed reading it, which is a huge relief.' 

Copies are available through our distributor hubcapzw@gmail.com in Zimbabwe and through  www.africanbookscollective.com elsewhere.

The 2019 Caine Prize Shortlist



The Caine Prize for African Writing shortlist for 2019 is:


Lesley Nneka Arimah (Nigeria) for ‘Skinned’, published in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Issue 53. Lesley Nneka Arimah (Nigeria) for ‘Skinned’, published in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern,. Lesley Nneka Arimah was born in the UK and grew up in Nigeria and wherever else her father was stationed for work. Her stories have been honoured with a National Magazine Award, a Commonwealth Short Story Prize and an O. Henry Award. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, McSweeney’s, GRANTA and has received support from The Elizabeth George Foundation and MacDowell. She was selected for the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 and her debut collection WHAT IT MEANS WHEN A MAN FALLS FROM THE SKY won the 2017 Kirkus Prize, the 2017 New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award and was selected for the New York Times/PBS book club among other honors. Arimah is a 2019 United States Artists Fellow in Writing. She lives in Las Vegas and is working on a novel about you.


2.png Meron Hadero (Ethiopia) for ‘The Wall’, published in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Issue 52. Meron Hadero is an Ethiopian-American born in Addis Ababa who came to the U.S. as a refugee in her childhood via East and West Germany. Her stories appear in Best American Short Stories, McSweeney’s, Zyzzyva, The Iowa Review, and others. Her writing is also in The New York Times Book Review and the anthology The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives. She has been awarded residencies at Yaddo, Ragdale, and MacDowell, and holds an MFA from the University of Michigan, a JD from Yale Law School (Washington State Bar), and a BA from Princeton in history. Meron is a recipient of a 2019-2020 Steinbeck Fellowship.


3.jpgCherrie Kandie (Kenya) for ‘Sew My Mouth’ published in ID Identity: New Short Fiction From Africa. Cherrie Kandie is a Kenyan writer and a senior at college in the United States of America. She also makes short films and enjoys dancing to Lingala (only in her room).

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Ngwah-Mbo Nana Nkweti (Cameroon) for ‘It Takes A Village Some Say’, published in The Baffler. Ngwah-Mbo Nana Nkweti is a Cameroonian-American writer and graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She is the recipient of fellowships and residencies from MacDowell, Vermont Studio Center, Ucross, Byrdcliffe, Kimbilio, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Clarion West, Hub City, the Wurlitzer Foundation, and the Stadler Center for Poetry and Literary Arts. Nana’s writing has been published in journals and magazines such as Brittle Paper, New Orleans Review, and The Baffler, amongst others. Her forthcoming short story collection, Like Walking on Cowry Shells, focuses on the lives of hyphenated-Americans who share her multi-cultural heritage in the United States and Africa.

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Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor (Nigeria) for ‘All Our Lives’ published in ID Identity: New Short Fiction From Africa. Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor is a Nigerian writer whose work has appeared in the 2018 Best of the Net, the 2019 Best Small Fictions, The Guardian, Harvard's Transition MagazineColumbia Journal, and elsewhere. A 2018 Rhodes Scholar finalist and a 2018 Kathy Fish Fellow, he has won the 2017 Short Story Day Africa Prize for Short Fiction. He has been shortlisted for the 2017 Awele Creative Trust Award, the 2016 Problem House Press Short Story Prize, and the 2016 Southern Pacific Review Short Story Prize. He lives in Pittsburgh, USA, and is at work on a novel and a short story collection.

The Caine Prize anthology, featuring the shortlisted stories and those from the Caine Prize workshop, is to be published by amaBooks in Zimbabwe later this year.


Sunday, June 9, 2019

Tendai Huchu at the European Conference on African Studies


Tendai Huchu will be reading from his book, The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician, at the 8th European Conference on African Studies on Thursday 13 June at 1.00pm. The University of Edinburgh’s Centre of African Studies is hosting Europe’s international and largest conference with an African focus from June 11-14. It takes place in the University's central campus and is organised on behalf of the Research Network of African Studies Centres in Europe AEGIS.

The conference brings together 1,500 leading researchers, policymakers, and leaders from across the world. There is a complementary series of artistic and cultural events, as well as various networking and capacity building events, including some particularly aimed at the next generation of African researchers. 


In The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician, three very different men struggle with thoughts of belonging, loss, identity and love as they attempt to find a place for themselves in Britain. The Magistrate tries to create new memories and roots, fusing a wandering exploration of Edinburgh with music. The Maestro, a depressed, quixotic character, sinks out of the real world into the fantastic world of literature. The Mathematician, full of youth, follows a carefree, hedonistic lifestyle, until their three universes collide. In this carefully crafted, multi- layered novel, Tendai Huchu, with his inimitable humour, reveals much about the Zimbabwe story as he draws the reader deep into the lives of the three main characters.

Born and raised in Zimbabwe, Huchu presently resides in Edinburgh. In the words of the literary scholar F. Fiona Moolla, Huchu may well be the writer who, through his immigrant Zimbabwean characters in The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician (2014), has written the city of Edinburgh into the twenty-first century global novel, doing for Edinburgh what Charles Dickens did for London, and James Joyce did for Dublin.

The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician is published in Zimbabwe by amaBooks, by Parthian Books in the UK, by Ohio University Press in North America, by Kachifo in West Africa and is available elsewhere through the African Books Collective.


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

African literature disrupting what Western presses prize


By Jeanne- Marie Jackson
From The Herald, 15 May 2019
Jeanne-Marie Jackson
African literature is the object of immense international interest across both academic and popular registers. Far from the field’s earlier, post-colonial association with marginality, a handful of star “Afropolitan” names are at the forefront of global trade publishing. Books like Chimamanda Adichie’s “Americanah” and “Half of a Yellow Sun”, Teju Cole’s “Open City”, Taiye Selasi’s “Ghana Must Go” and Yaa Gyasi’s “Homegoing” have confounded neat divisions between Western and African literary traditions. The Cameroonian novelist Imbolo Mbue captured a million-dollar contract for her first book, “Behold the Dreamers”. That’s even before it joined the Oprah’s Book Club pantheon this year.
Such commercial prominence, though, has attracted considerable and unsurprising push back from Western and Africa-based critics alike. Far from advancing narratives with deep roots in local African realities, such critics fear, many of Africa’s most “successful” writers hawk a superficial, overly diasporic, or even Western-focused vision of the continent.
NoViolet Bulawayo
The most visible of these critiques has been directed at the Zimbabwean writer NoViolet Bulawayo’s “We Need New Names” (2013). The Nigerian novelist Helon Habila worried in a review in the London Guardian that it was “poverty-porn”. The popular Nigerian critic Ikhide Ikheloa (“Pa Ikhide”) frequently makes a similar point. Fellow Nigerian writer Adaobi Nwaubani critiqued the West’s hold on Africa’s book industry in a much-circulated New York Times piece called “African Books for Western Eyes”.
Such debates about African writing could, and likely will, go on forever. Questions about Africa’s place in the current global literary marketplace broaden some of the most urgent queries of the postcolonial era. Who gets to document African realities? Who are the “gatekeepers” of African publishing traditions?
It goes on: To what sort of audience does African writing cater? What is the role — and what should it be, if any — of Western institutions in brokering cultural prestige?
All these issues merit concern.
Between the default poles
Too often, though, African writing ends up volleyed between two default poles of “corporate global” and “activist local”. Some onlookers, as in a recent essay by the Canadian scholar Sarah Brouillette, go as far as to name the biases of even Africa-based print outlets. Kenya’s Kwani Trust is exposed as “Western-facing” due to a web of donor relations. “West” here is code for neoliberal. “Western-facing” is for complicity with a market that skews toward British and American interests.
Faced with a “world system” argument like Brouillette’s, African literature would seem trapped between a rock and a hard place.
But, in fact, this tells only a small part of the story of how African writing now makes its way through the world. It is incomplete to the point of being outdated, given the boom over the past five years in new, globally conscious small US literary presses collaborating with African writers.
A “West subsuming Africa” brand of critique works fine for scholars with no real skin in the game of literary publishing. It also denies real agency to a lot of African writers and other literary professionals. On the ground the literary field is far more forward-thinking and diverse.
There is an entire new body of African writing that escapes this closed circuit of damning truisms. A wave of new or recently galvanised independent literary presses in the US and the UK are working in tandem with some of Africa’s most generative outlets. Together they are publishing and promoting work by young and adventurous African writers.
Labours of love
Books published originally by presses like Umuzi (South Africa), amaBooks (Zimbabwe) and Kwani (Kenya) find second lives with international publishers working to defy the constraints of profitability. They’re mostly labours of love with skeleton staffs that speak to a transcontinental commitment to innovative African writing.
Here are a few key examples of African texts published by independent American outlets — “independent” here refers to presses beyond the “Big Five” US trade publishers (Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House and Simon and Schuster.
These include Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s Ugandan epic “Kintu” which was originally launched by Kwani. It was the first Anglophone novel put out by the brand-new Transit Books based in Oakland, California. The press seeks maximum visibility for translated fiction alongside texts originally written in English. They advocate for more ethical legal and financial dealings with translators, as well as international writers.
A number of similarly tiny, ambitious ventures have published some of the most acclaimed recent African writing in translation. Deep Vellum Publishing was behind the English translation of Fiston Mwanza Mujila’s Etisalat Prize-winning “Tram 83”.
Also dedicated exclusively to works in translation, LA-based Phoneme Media in 2016 published the first ever Burundian novel in English, Roland Rugero’s deeply contemplative “Baho!”. Phoneme’s tagline, fittingly, is “curious books for curious people”.
In a similar vein, Brooklyn’s Restless Books was founded to combat “parochial, inward-looking, and homogenised trends in American publishing”. Among their forthcoming titles, translated from the French is Naivo’s “Beyond the Rice Fields”. It’s the first novel from Madagascar to see its way to English.
Veteran nonprofit press Archipelago Books is also in Brooklyn. In 2015, it published the translation from the Portuguese of Angolan writer Jose Eduardo Agualusa’s “A General Theory of Oblivion”.
Every one of these throws a wrench in a clear, cynical sense of what kind of novel Western presses prize. That is not to mention the many African writers, publishers, and editors working in concert to promote these same texts.
Small, focused channels
It applies to the Anglosphere too. Books that offer a decidedly more locally textured experience than those of the “Afropolitan” rock stars have made their way abroad through small, focused channels.
These works might include Tendai Huchu’s “The Maestro, the Magistrate, and the Mathematician” (published originally by amaBooks, and in the US by Ohio University Press); Imraan Coovadia’s “Tales of the Metric System” (from Umuzi, and again by Ohio University Press); and Masande Ntshanga’s “The Reactive” (also Umuzi; in the US by family-run Two Dollar Radio.
Clearly, this collection just scratches the surface. But what these works have in common is an investment in stylistic and structural experimentation that confounds rather than caters to an international taste for “digestible” fiction, or to mostly Western points of cultural and institutional reference.
This counter-current of transnational African literary life complicates the equation of culture, geopolitics and economics in more useful ways than stale materialist critiques.
As such titles and presses continue to gain acclaim and recognition by an international readership that is aware of and hostile to shallow representations of Africa — and who crave engagement with challenging fiction, regardless of its origin — critics will need to rethink some of their orthodoxies.
There is more to both African literature and Western publishing than meets an eye too practised in its suspicion. If literature is doomed only to echo the failings of globalisation, then why bother? On the contrary, a new generation of writers and publishers deserve our awareness of the “global literary marketplace” as a meaningfully multidimensional space. — Africa Conversation.