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Speculative Fiction from Around the World

Joseph Mwella on “It’s cheap to say African writers idolise the West”

Kenya’s The Nation has a fascinating new article by Joseph Mwella on African writing and Western expectations:

On July 28, on this page appeared an article about how Kenyan writers and readers allegedly idolise the West.

The article started by quoting extensively, a review by the Economist on Binyavanga Wainaina’sOne Day I Will Write About This Place.

What was laughable was the attendant irony linking a Western magazine’s scathing attack on an African writer and accusing African writers and readers of idolising the West all in one breath.

The net effect was an article laden with intellectual conmanship.

Quoting the Economist’s negative review merely because the book doesn’t subscribe to the Western prescription of an African book, and accusing African writers and readers of idolising the West is the height of insincerity.

I read the manuscript of One Day I Will Write About this Place sometime last year and it was incredibly fresh.

Its language is cassava chips crispy, its events real and closer to home than anything I have read by a contemporary Kenyan writer.

Outside the foreign observer Michela Wrong in It’s Our Time to Eat, no recent literary work captures modern Kenya as Binyavanga’s memoir.

The Bookforum review says this of the book: “He does not present one mythical continent, but rather a fractured, complex, and ever-shifting collection of experiences.”

In essence a fresh new examination of Africa in a way the world doesn’t see it.

This Africa the world doesn’t see is what theEconomist’s reviewer doesn’t like.

He would rather the usual African pornography of poverty, war, disease and death.

Well, death is in One Day, but it’s dignified. The writer’s mother dies. Apparently that death isn’t gritty enough to meet the Economist’s approval. Africans should not die with dignity, but from war or disease or poverty! – continue reading.

September 19, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

1 Comment

  1. I just read this article today… in the Nation. It wasn’t something I expected to come up in a blog I follow. I’m in the middle of ‘One Day…’ right now and it really is a good book. I can’t really say it better than Mwella – “Its language is cassava chips crispy, its events real and closer to home than anything I have read by a contemporary Kenyan writer.”

    Caveat – It isn’t genre. Having seen this in two different places now, I am tempted to go look up that Economist review and see what it says…

    Comment by mafidufa | September 20, 2011


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