Three days ago, precisely May 25th, was celebrated as World Africa Day. In the spirit of celebrating Africa and Africans, we have compiled a list of seven (7) great African novels that we think everyone should read. Check out our list below:
THINGS FALL APART by Chinua Achebe
Things Fall Apart comprehensively presents the pre-colonial and colonial Igbo society, unravelling the clash between the traditional system and colonialization. Published in 1958, this African novel, which revolves around the tragic fall of the protagonist, Okonkwo, is said to be Achebe’s ground-breaking masterpiece. Don’t be surprised that it still tops the chart till date as the most widely read African literary work with tons of positive reviews. There’s something about this novel you don’t want to miss.
THE BEAUTYFUL ONES ARE NOT YET BORN by Ayi Kwei Armah
The novel reflects on the existential predicament of an honest man, an ethical beacon, alone in the last days of Nkrumah’s regime. This African novel, published in 1968 and republished in 1969 by Heinemann African Writers, is said to be so dense that no one has figured the total pattern of its symbolism. It takes off on a journey as a railway freight clerk in Ghana attempts to hold out against the pressure that propelled him to corruption in both his family and country. It is an eye-opening read recommended to anyone who enjoys underlying representations in literary works.
DISGRACE by J.M. Coetzee
Published in 1999, this is a Booker Prize-awarded novel. This African novel captures its spark from South Africa’s contemporary social and political conflict, and gives a bleak look at a country changing form. The theme of transition is portrayed in various forms throughout the novel – the character of David’s loss of authority, sexuality, job, and change in power dynamics among groups that were once dominant. The novel narrates David’s struggle with the consequences of some of his decisions. You will likely feel a sense of intellectual stimulation after reading this African novel.
KINTU by Jennifer Makumbi
The Ugandan novelist and short story writer displayed pure African tradition in her novel, which was set in between the pre-colonial Buganda that became Uganda in the year 1750 and 2004. The novel centres on the protagonist, who had been cursed together with his descendants. It is an interesting read forged from the traditional history of the Ugandan people.
PURPLE HIBISCUS by Chimamanda Adichie
Some books speak for themselves; Purple Hibiscus is one of those books. A story that systematically examined the religious hypocrisy and dilemma in Nigeria, alongside other issues such as domestic violence, oppression of African parents, education, and persistent love through the story of Kambili’s coming of age. It can be an emotional read.
THE MEMORY OF LOVE by Aminatta Forna
The Scottish and Sierra Leonean writer told the experiences of three men in Sierra Leone fighting personal battles after the war was over. This is a tale of passion, pain, and conflict that portrays the common situations humans find themselves in with a sense of grievous responsibility borne by a country and felt bone-deep by the people affected.
NERVOUS CONDITIONS by Tsitsi Dangaremgba
Nervous Conditions is a novel by the Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga. Published in 1988, it was the first book published by a black woman from Zimbabwe in English. This African novel was listed as one of the BBC’s top 100 books that changed the world in 2018, and it won the Commonwealth Writers Prize in 1989. The novel focuses on how the character of Tambu overcomes the particularly gender-challenging system surrounding her. It is an exciting read.