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ALT 31 Writing Africa in the Short Story

ALT 31 Writing Africa in the Short Story: African Literature Today

Editor: Ernest N. Emenyonu
Assistant Editor: Patricia T. Emenyonu
Jane Bryce
Maureen N. Eke
Stephanie Newell
Charles E. Nnolim
Chimalum Nwankwo
Ato Quayson
Kwawisi Tekpetey
Iniobong I. Uko
Reviews Editor: James Gibbs
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    ALT 31 Writing Africa in the Short Story
    Book Description:

    African writers have, much more than the critics, recognized the beauty and potency of the short story. Always the least studied in African literature classrooms and the most critically overlooked genre in African literature today, the African short story is now given the attention it deserves. Contributors here take a close look at the African short story to re-define its own peculiar pedigree, chart its trajectory, critique its present state and examine its creative possibilities. They examine how the short story and the novel complement each other, or exist in contradistinction, within the context of culture and politics, history and public memory, legends, myths and folklore. Ernest Emenyonu is Professor of Africana Studies at the University of Michigan-Flint, USA; the editorial board is composed of scholars from US, UK and African universities. Nigeria: HEBN

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-196-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Dedication: Chinua Achebe Joins the Ancestors 1930–2013
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. xi-xii)

    • ‘Once Upon a Time Begins a Story...’
      (pp. 1-7)

      The above outcry was taken from an article, ‘The Short Story as a Genre, with Notes on Achebe’s “The Madman”’ by my friend and colleague, the erudite scholar, Charles Nnolim. Three decades later, nothing has changed; the critical gap in the criticism of African Literature decried by Nnolim remains unaddressed, unfilled. If anything, the gap has become wider and deeper. It is as if no serious critic even took notice of Nnolim’s call for urgent action. National and international conferences and colloquiums continue to be held in Africa and elsewhere to address issues and challenges associated with the novel, poetry,...


    • ‘Real Africa’ / ‘Which Africa?’: The Critique of Mimetic Realism in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Short Fiction
      (pp. 8-24)

      A great deal of postcolonial literary criticism about African literature naturalizes the notion that African writers produce literary artwork whose primary function is the exposure of the atrocities of the colonial era – and the lingering effects of that era – in order to redress injustice via a true account of history. The idea is that, once people know this true story of their own history, they shall be more able to resist the psychological and sociocultural effects of imperialism and its attendant racist dogma. In the words of the epigram above, the ‘serious’, ‘austere’, ‘earnest’, and above all the ‘real’ African...

    • Writing Apartheid: Miriam Tlali’s Soweto Stories
      (pp. 25-39)

      Miriam Tlali is a short story writer who shapes the genre to record voices from the Soweto community. In so doing her fictional forms emerge from the politics of apartheid, from the dialogue, debate, argument and rhetoric of the struggle. Her forms not only serve as a protest against the ways individual lives are deformed by the realities of the oppressive laws and restrictions but they emerge from that conflict and become vehicles expressing the injustices black South Africans faced daily. In describing the setting of her first novel,Muriel at Metropolitan(1975) Miriam Tlali claims the store is ‘like...

    • Articulations of Home & Muslim Identity in the Short Stories of Leila Aboulela
      (pp. 40-51)

      Sudanese writer and Caine Prize recipient Leila Aboulela writes prose that captures and then lingers on experiences of migration. Homesickness pervades her writing, inviting us to consider what constitutes a home and what one will do to return there, even if only through scent and sound. In Aboulela’s own words: ‘I write about what I find moving and disturbing. Culture-shock or how, again and again, the carpet gets pulled from under our feet.’¹ In her short stories ‘The Ostrich’ (1997), ‘The Museum’ (2000), and ‘Missing Out’ (2010), Aboulela makes familiar and demystifies the experiences of Muslim women as they migrate...

    • Ugandan Women in Contest with Reality: Mary K. Okurutu’s A Woman’s Voice & the Women’s Future
      (pp. 52-64)

      When on 9 October 2006, Ban Ki-moon, the eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations, launched an in depth study at the General Assembly on all forms of violence against women, it came from the awareness that African women were still suffering violence at all levels of their lives and operations. He declared ‘Break the silence. When you witness violence against women and girls, do not sit back. Act.’ (www. As a follow-up to the above initiative, in 2008 the United Nations Secretary-General launched theUNiTE to End Violence against Womencampaign, which constitutes a call ‘on governments, civil societies,...

    • Snapshots of the Botswana Nation: Bessie Head’s The Collector of Treasures & Other Botswana Village Tales as a National Project
      (pp. 65-76)

      Bessie Head’s collection of short stories,The Collector of Treasures,signalled a shift in her writing which became, in her own words, ‘more social and outward-looking’ (Head 2007: 102). Head has described her earlier works as ‘stating personal choices’ expressed through the construction of ‘[m]anipulated characters [who] talk anxiously for the author’. The anxieties that Head alludes to are well documented in her biographical and epistolary writings; a product of an interracial relationship born into a prominent white family in apartheid South Africa, as well as the breakdown of her marriage and her life in exile in Botswana. She initially...

    • Widowhood – Institutionalized Dead Weight to Personal Identity & Dignity: A Reading of Ifeoma Okoye’s The Trial & Other Stories
      (pp. 77-88)

      Much research has been done on the status of African women under the ideologies of feminism, motherism, womanism and accomodationism with the sole aim of correcting the devaluation of women by the early male writers such as Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, et al., who represented women as disparaged. Even early female writers including Flora Nwapa and Buchi Emecheta did not salvage their devalued situation because their heroines were crushed at the end.

      At the close of the twentieth century and the start of the twenty-first century, however, some female African scholars, seeing the need for a radical elevation of...

    • Feminist Censure of Marriage in Islamic Societies: A Thematic Analysis of Alifa Rifaat’s Short Stories
      (pp. 89-101)

      Formal literary writing began far later for women than men. In England for instance, Fitzmaurice et al. (1997) assert that it is virtually impossible to name a woman writer prior to Jane Austen even though women were writing as early as the time of Chaucer (1). They argue that until the seventeenth century, women writers were viewed as ‘odd’ adding that ‘the enormous commercial and artistic success of Aphra Behn’s plays on the London stage of the 1670s and 1680s marked the end of the time where only men were literary luminaries’ (1).

      The suppression of female expression has been...

    • Diaspora Identities in Short Fiction by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie & Sefi Atta
      (pp. 102-114)

      The African short story has come of age in the twenty-first century through the creative artistry of younger generation African women writers such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Sefi Atta. As leading women writers of both novels and short fiction, their literature chronicles a new reality of social change and modernity that transforms the lives of African women within a global arena. Since the turn of the century, their fiction mirrors the lives of contemporary African women who grapple with challenges of migration and displacement, and the impact of globalization. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s short story collectionThe Thing Around Your...

    • Exposition of Apartheid South African Violence & Injustice in Alex la Guma’s Short Stories
      (pp. 115-126)

      Every oppressive system has witnessed a literature of protest that uses themes of violence, racism and conflict within the writers’ ideo logical framework. It is the desire to change oppressive human history, to place man in a better position to understand his environment and subsequently harness his resources to boost his living condition that makes artists protest subtly or violently against factors that inhibit their quest. In South Africa, colonialism took the form of a settler colony, where land was forcibly confiscated and the owners reduced to the status of wage-earning labourers. The settlers, in order to perpetuate their authority...

    • Locating a Genre: Is Zimbabwe a Short Story Country?
      (pp. 127-134)

      ‘Short stories have long been the poor relations of Zimbabwean literature’, T.O. McLoughlin once observed. Critics and commentators in the Zimbabwean literary discourse have paid scant attention to the short story and have treated it as a footnote to the novel, some kind of practice ground for the more serious business of writing novels. And yet the short story engenders vital issues that have contemporary relevance.

      The development of the short story in Zimbabwe as a separate, concentrated short form of literature reveals remarkable vitality, and it holds up in a natural manner as an effective mirror to the Zimbabwean...

    • Mohammed Dib’s Short Stories on the Memory of Algeria
      (pp. 135-147)

      The work of the contemporary Algerian author Mohammed Dib defines the notion of colonial and postcolonial terrorism in Algeria and their impact on Algerian identity. I use the term ‘terrorism’ in this paper in keeping with Martha Hutchinson’s definition that takes terrorism as ‘ acts of emotionally or physically “destructive harm”’ (1978: 18). Accordingly, I classify terrorism in Algeria as coming from two different directions: the French colonial terrorism of the 1950s and the extremist terrorism of the 1990s. Both types involve ‘acts of [physically] atrocious or psychologically shocking violence’ (19) that are destructive to Algerian identity. Dib’s short stories...

    • Ama Ata Aidoo’s Short Stories: Empowering the African Girl-Child
      (pp. 148-161)

      Ama Ata Aidoo’s collection of short stories:The Girl Who Can and Other Stories(1997) is a creative work that could be justifiably described as woman-centred in a progressive sense. In it she foregrounds female characters, women’s needs and issues. The collection seems to have fulfilled Molara Ogundipe-Leslie’s requirements for the African female writer to be committed ‘as a writer, as a woman and as a Third World person’ (1994). Aidoo herself has added commitment as an African nationalist to the list (ibid). A keen analysis of the stories reveals yet another criterion which includes the common concerns basic to...

    • Ama Ata Aidoo: An interview for ALT
      (pp. 162-168)
      Maureen Eke, Vincent Odamtten, Stephanie Newell and Ama Ata Aidoo

      Maureen Eke: What do you see as the place of the short story in African literature?

      Ama Ata Aidoo: I think the short story is unfortunately rather misrepresented. As somebody who has also worked with that other ‘brief’ genre, poetry, I have found that African scholars and teachers have paid attention only to the novel. This is to be lamented.

      Vincent Odamtten: Sometimes people accuse me of overreadingNo Sweetness Here(1970), but when I look at your collection there is a sense of an interrogation of the moment after independence: you use the notion of postindependence to interrogate women’s...


    • Amir Taj ElSir. The Grub Hunter
      (pp. 169-170)
    • Gordon Collier. (ed.). Focus on Nigeria: Literature and Culture
      (pp. 171-172)
      IKE ANYA
    • Dominique Chancé and Alain Ricard (eds). Ètudes littéraires africaines: Traductions postcoloniales
      (pp. 172-174)
    • Laura Murphy. Metaphor and the Slave Trade in West African Literature
      (pp. 174-176)
    • Eldred Durosimi Jones with Majorie Jones. The Freetown Bond: A Life Under Two Flags
      (pp. 176-180)
  8. Back Matter
    (pp. 181-181)