Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sadly, Miriam Makeba has died. I will always remember her for her role in the fantastic musical KING KONG (very difficult to get hold of these days). Watch her perform the extraordinary When I've Passed On here and the more well-known Pata Pata here. What a voice!

An online reading and discussion of Doris Lessing's THE GOLDEN NOTEBOOK starts next week. Nigerian British writer Helen Oyeyemi is one of the official readers (Thanks to Danielle and Kimbofo for drawing my attention to this).

The London African Film Festival starts in a couple of weeks; I am so jealous of those of you who live in the capital!

This year's longlist for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction has been announced. Unfortunately, their website hasn't been updated with this information yet, but the full list is available on The Book Depository website. It is wonderful to see a serious prize like this develop (this is only in its second year) precisely because it raises the profile of arabic writers in the English speaking world. Unfortunately, much of the work is not available in English yet, and I'm ashamed to say that the only writer's name I recognize is Ibrahim Al-Koni. The Libyan author has produced an astonishing number of titles, yet very few are available in translation, which seems unfortunate. The American University in Cairo Press translates quite a few Arabic language titles each year, if you are interested.

"...Congo's crisis is not unprecedented, nor is it unrivalled. To people who know the continent, there's something of an arbitrary quality as to how one crisis seizes the public imagination and others go ignored." The excellent journalist and writer Michela Wrong pens a short piece for The Guardian/Observer (thanks to The Scarlett Lion for the link). Personally, I would have preferred a much longer piece - Wrong is a thoughtful and thought provoking writer with great integrity. She has a new book out next year on Kenya, which I look forward to immensely. It is currently listed on Amazon as It's Our Turn to Eat: How One Man Broke Tribal Ranks to Fight Government Greed in Kenya although whether this will be the final title, who knows.

"Bile did not grow up dreaming of being a pirate. He comes from a family of fishermen whose livelihood was destroyed, he says, by the arrival of industrial trawlers from Europe." An alternative view of piracy in the Gulf of Aden by Daniel Howden in The Independent on Friday.

Friday, November 14, 2008

This has been a two-steps-forward-three-steps-back kind of week with The Daughter: she has found her toes, thinks those interesting other appendages (hands) might be hers, and most cutely learned to kiss. But we are back to screaming through every feed, and the health visitor is concerned at her weightloss (we have to go back again next week to monitor her). My absence from the blog can be simply explained as exhaustion, and general lack of access to the computer - it is hard to blog with a child who cries if you put her down. Temporary growing pains I hope.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

It has been a long day, so rather than post a review, here's the latest meme doing the rounds (Loads of people have posted this, but I read it first on A Work in Progress, so thanks to Danielle).

The rules are: Open up the nearest book to page 56. Write out the fifth sentence on that page, and also the next two to five sentences. The CLOSEST BOOK, not your favorite or most intellectual.

The people of the kingdom heard that their beloved prince was dying and they came in their multitudes to the palace. The women swarmed there in their hundreds. They brought their children with them.They left their farms, their marketplaces, their homes, and they came and sat in silence outside the palace, and kept vigil. They brought lamps which they kept alight all night, and all day, as if the light of the lamps somehow sustained the life of their much-loved prince.

This extract from Ben Okri's STARBOOK which arrived by post today - I mooched it off Bookmooch.

Consider yourself tagged, if you're interested!

Monday, November 03, 2008

A delicious parcel has arrived from the AFRICA BOOK CENTRE (as always, since I haven't read them yet, descriptions are from the publishers):
AFRICA WRITES BACK: THE AFRICAN WRITERS SERIES AND THE LAUNCH OF AFRICAN LITERATURE - James Currey. 17 June 2008 is the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" by Heinemann. This provided the impetus for the foundation of the "African Writers Series" in 1962 with Chinua Achebe as the Editorial Adviser.'{The book} is therefore not only the story of a publishing enterprise of great significance; it is also a large part of the story of African literature and its dissemination in the latter half of the twentieth century.
I'm really looking forward to reading this, as I've been collecting and reading the AWS for ages. Most of the originals are now out of print, although Heinemann keep a small selection available.
This should be a fascinating story.
A suave urban swindler invites himself to the sleepy hinterland of Nyanyadu where he dupes a well-meaning but naive local notable into a deceitful partnership. Pretending to be a modern-day Moses on a mission to save the people, CC Ndebenkulu is nothing more than a con man whose artifice exposes one man's obsession with instant riches. Set in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands of rural South Africa, The Rich Man of Pietermaritzburg is an enchanting tale of neurotic ambition that unfolds against the backdrop of the systematic destruction of the African peasantry and the loss of their land and liberties.
Nyembezi's book was named one of Africa's 100 Best Books of the 20th Century. This is the first time it is available in an English translation, thanks to the sterling efforts of Aflame Books.
PLOT LOSS - Heinrich Troost
When Harry van As returns to work in Pretoria, the city of his childhood, he seems to be at sea in a vastly changed hinterland of shifting surfaces. Gone is, for example, the white middle-class respectability. Instead of an apartheid stronghold, he finds a pulsating African metropolis. Or is it just the company he keeps – a rainbow spectrum of friends and colleagues of origins and persuasions that would have been anathema in the stifling city of his youth.
It is the returning to Pretoria theme that appeals with this one.I'm looking forward to seeing how he describes the city.
The well-loved words of Ecclesiastes take on new life and meaning in the sun-baked rural setting of a South African homestead. Sowing, planting and reaping through the temperamental wet and dry seasons, going to market, day-to-day dealings with neighbours and acquaintances, love and hostility, the joy of celebration and sadness of mourning with family and friends - Jude Daly shows an ageless world in miniature, jewel-like detail and colour. Accompanied by familiar text from the King James Bible.
This is a children's picture book which I just liked the sound of.

They should keep me going for a while, as my TBR pile teeters...

Sunday, November 02, 2008

I often come across small news items related to African literature/writers, or pieces that I just find interesting. On the whole, they never make it into posts, so I thought I'd start collecting them into one weekly round-up which I'll post on weekend days. This week's offering:

"Abdul-Lateef sits in the shade at the front of his shop, a glint in his eye and a week's growth of beard on his cheeks. With care, he weighs out half a dozen dried chameleons, wraps them in a twist of newspaper and passes the packet to a young woman dressed in black..." Tahir Shah describes a visit to Fes.

The latest issue of FARAFINA is out, guest edited by Laila Lalami:
I have often noticed that whenever one hears about “Africa,” whether on the news, or in music, or in arts, or in literature, the inevitable focus is always the portion of the continent that is geographically south of the Sahara desert. For instance, the “plight of Africa,” that favourite headline of European and American newspapers, usually refers to AIDS or child soldiers or foreign debt or whatever new cause hipsters find fit to embrace at the moment. When African music is written about outside of the continent, it is usually in terms of Youssou N’Dour, or Fela Kuti or Miriam Makeba. African art, as curated in places like The Metropolitan Museum in New York, means only artwork produced south of Senegal to the west and Sudan to the east. I have also noticed that those of us from the Northern parts of the continent are regularly thrust under the headings of “Arab” and “Islam,” to the exclusion of all others."
Chris Abani wins a PEN/Beyond Margins Award for his latest book SONG FOR NIGHT (Akashic) - read an extract here. "The reader is led by the voiceless protagonist who, as part of a land mine-clearing platoon, had his vocal chords cut; a move to keep these children from screaming when blown up, and thereby distracting the other minesweepers".

An interesting article on the post-apartheid novel with male protagonist, from Jane Rosenthal found here: "
...noticeably, in none of these novels is there any sort of racial sharing of the new South Africa. Apartheid persists, even in fiction it seems. How dour and dire is this?"

And more on South Africa: Shaun De Waal reviews titles on Thabo Mbeki's legacy for the country here. "
It's not a great stretch to see the arms deal, and what went wrong with it, as a key factor in the Mbeki presidency's slide into secretiveness, paranoia and denialism, not to mention its vicious attitude towards any dissent or revelations of wrongdoing".