which African books to (re) read during confinement?

Confine intelligent, with an African author. In disorder, and in all subjectivity, here is a non-exhaustive list of books to read or reread and to share without moderation.

“Americanah”, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Gallimard, 2015)

With a very rare sense of formula, a stripping style, humor and a sharp look, the Nigerian writer questions identity, immigration, skin color, relationships of domination … And, of course , feminism. The author of We are all feminists (Gallimard, 2018) plays with clichés, does not hesitate to deconstruct the dominant discourses. The color of the skin, therefore. His character Ifemelu (any resemblance to the author is not accidental) leaves Nigeria to continue his studies in the United States. There she discovers that she is black. But back in her country, when she got off the plane in Lagos, she “the impression of having ceased to be black“An intelligent, moving and jubilant book. Essential.

“The little ones of December”, Kaouther Adimi (Seuil, 2019)

Hirak, or the Revolution of the smile, was born later, three years exactly after the Algerian author decided to launch out in this novel inspired by a banal act at the time. Generals decide to take over a vacant lot that has become a soccer field and embark on a lucrative real estate business. Except that schoolchildren do not intend to let it go. Football, generals, young people and the revolution … For not being able to listen to the revolt that was booming in the stands, the Bouteflika camp was swept away, even if the current regime is not, for the moment, than a true copy of the old world. Ask the supporters of El Bahdja if they had not warned the rulers with songs that were as poignant as they were poetic, inaccessible to arrogant ears. Kaouther Adimi knew how to see and listen to this rebellious Algeria. And joyful. His book already said the new Algeria. A universal book. It could happen in many countries. Jubilant.

“1994”, Adlène Meddi (Rivages, 2018)

Let's always stay in Algeria, with an author who continues to question a tormented country. Carried by an angry tone, 1994 reads like a thriller, a black novel. 1994 gives to see, to understand an unreasonable era. The civil war, the war against civilians would perhaps be more appropriate, which has bloodied Algeria for ten years. The massacres followed one after the other, the horrors coming to the end of the vocabulary, by their repetitive banality. Adlène Meddi knew how to take the step back necessary to tell history with powerful, moving stories. All these lives stolen, offered, raped, say Algeria in the 90s with red ink. Adlène Meddi is, to date, the only one to describe the much feared intelligence services from the inside. Instructive.

“Johnny nasty dog”, Emmanuel Dongala (Feathered Serpent, 2002)

When it came out, the book had the effect of an Olni (unidentified literary object). The Congolese writer blew up all the codes, resolutely turning his back on academicism which kept the French-speaking African novel in a sterile conservatism. With Johnny nasty dog, no risk of rheumatism, everything goes quickly, the irony is never far away. All served with a nervous tongue. What does a child soldier think? What motivates him? Why does a child end up with a kalach in his hands? Emmanuel Dongala plunges us into the civil war and takes us on a chaotic, funny, wild journey in the head of the young Johnny, says Bad Dog. Victim and guilty. A political, poetic, humanist book. It dismantles all the mechanisms of the civil war, the interests, the role of humanitarian workers, politicians … It also describes a society which refuses to lose its humanity. Heart touching.

“I ran towards the Nile”, Alaa al-Aswany (Actes Sud, 2018)

Polyphonic book which, in turn, makes the trial of the current regime. Tahrir Square 2011, protesters from another Egypt. Present at the scene, the author of The Yacoubian Building give voice to those who lack it. His characters narrate a divided, torn, complex society. And it is all the credit of Alaa al-Aswany for always refusing to give in to any facility. His words are correct, his characters authentic. The reader would not have liked a reader, a certain General Sissi, who sued him. Alaa al-Aswany is being sued by the military general prosecutor's office, for “insults to the president, the armed forces and the Egyptian judicial institutions”. Not all Arab springs have led to happy summers. Anti-depression.

“Ritual murders in Imbaba”, Parker Bilal (Seuil, 2016)

The first puzzle solved, Parker Bilal is called Jamal Mahjoub, and is a prolific Anglo-Sudanese author. He wrote four thrillers with Cairo as a backdrop. And above all created an endearing character : Private detective Makana, ex-Sudanese cop, political exile. Like all exiles, Makana travels with the ghosts of her past, a necessarily painful cohabitation. Surviving at an exorbitant price and cost. A life on credit. Ghosts have memories. In the present, they impose an ever decomposed past. In this second Makana investigation, the author of Shadows of the desert tackles what at first glance appears to be a political-religious conspiracy. At first glance. Because, as often with Parker Bilal / Jamal Mahjoub, there is no shortage of surprises. With an incisive, refined writing, the writer continues to tell us about this little-known Egypt (and necessarily Sudan). Enjoyable.

“Waiting for the vote of the wild beasts”, Ahmadou Kourouma (Seuil, 1998)

What have become of our independence? And are yesterday's liberators those never-satiated predators ? Thirsty for recognition and power, power is not enough for them. The sage Ahmadou Kourouma mixes tales, mythology and political fable in a book-indictment against the potentates (they were, and still are, many) who have made their country, and Africa, their hunting ground . The list is long. A magic book, bewitching, bewitching, carried by a rich language. Readers should recognize their dictator. Waiting for the vote of the wild beasts questions human nature, questions an almost caricatured Africa during the Cold War. Because these “hunters” do not come ex nihilo, are not without support. The author of Allah does not have to, at the top of his game, just before leaving us in 2003, left us a precious will. Has anything changed since on the Continent? Primordial.

“Remember Ruben”, Mongo Beti (African presence in 1971, Plumed serpent 2001)

Long considered “THE” African anti-colonial book, Remember Ruben remains a major work in African literature. Mongo Beti does not write to please, or rather did not write (he died in 2001 in Douala), nor to pass the time. A committed man, the Cameroonian writer Mongo Beti experienced censorship for Low hand over Cameroon, then the hassles of the administration of Paul Biya. This novel takes place at the end of the 1950s, on the eve of independence. With the gaze of the young Mor-Zamba, uprooted child, we are witnessing the end of a world and another which is slow to be born. All the tomorrows do not sing, some carry within them the seeds of anger to come. From colonialism to neocolonialism. From a traditional society to a groping, unfulfilled society. Committed.

“The one who is worthy to be loved”, Abdellah Taïa (Seuil, 2017)

From his first novel, the Moroccan writer is part of a disruptive narrative. Society, he looks it in the face. What is the value of the paper on which a book is printed if it does not disturb, if it does not move, does not question? Openly gay, Abdellah Taïa has accounts to settle, much to say. In this epistolary novel, the author ofA country to die does not hesitate to summon History. The life of Ahmed, a Moroccan homosexual, is not a long, peaceful river on both sides of the Mediterranean. A strong, violent, authentic book. And we take uppercuts a lot. And we want more. Abdellah Taïa is right, every time. Mother, lover, friend … Passionate relationships. We come out groggy. Implacable.

“Porcupine Memories”, Alain Mabanckou (Seuil, 2006)

Take a deep breath before diving into this bookAlain Mabanckou, Renaudot Prize. Those who had read his previous one, Broken glass, have a definite advantage. Philosophical tale, Porcupine memories is a major, universal work. As everyone knows (or does not know), we all have a double animal. Kibandi's alter ego is a porcupine. And woe to all his enemies. Souvenirs, the porcupine is full of prickles, mostly bloody. And he's in a race against time, death. What are we going to retain from his ephemeral passage, he who has survived his double human? The author of Storks are immortal takes us, with formidable verve, into a fantastic, magical universe. Magisterial.


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