Henry Muoria (1914-97), self-taught journalist and pamphleteer, helped to inspire Kenya's nationalisms before Mau Mau. The pamphlets reproduced here, in Gikuyu and English, contrast his own originality with the conservatism of Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya's first President. The contributing editors introduce Muoria's political context, tell how three remarkable women sustained his families' life; and remember him as father. Courageous intellectual, political, and domestic life here intertwine.
The term 'recent' or 'new' covers novels and some short fiction published between 1980 and 1995, a period characterized by growing pessimism about the state of affairs in both East and West Africa. The section on South Africa deals more narrowly with the 1985-95 watershed marking the end of official apartheid and the beginning of reconstruction. The three sections aim at giving a coherent picture of the main directions in production, highlighting three main centres of interest, Nigeria, Kenya, and the Republic of South Africa, although some novelists from neighbouring countries are also considered (such as Kofi Awoonor from Ghana, Nuruddin Farah from Somalia, and M.G. Vassanji and Abdulrazak Gurnah from Tanzania).
The evaluations conducted in the three sections lead to the emergence of a number of common themes, in particular the writers' predilection for topicality, the role of the past, and the controversy over the idea of the nation. Central themes also include the role of women in fending for themselves, both in rural and in urban environments. A further major theme is the role of the past (the Nigerian civil war; the Mau Mau period in Kenya; the revisiting of slavery; the refurbishing of myth; the questioning of historical reconstructions). The preoccupation of the West, East, and South African novel with the idea and ideal of the 'nation' is explored, particularly in the context of migrancy, hybridity, and transculturalism characterizing the anglophone diaspora.
The volume is aimed at literary scholars and students and, more generally, readers of fiction seeking an introduction to contemporary literary developments in various parts of sub-Saharan anglophone Africa. No categorical distinction is drawn between 'popular' and 'high' literature. Though still selective and not intended as an exhaustive catalogue, the present survey covers a large number of titles. Rather than resorting to broad and ultimately somewhat abstract thematic categories, the contributors endeavour to keep control over this mass of material by applying a 'micro-thematic' taxonomy. This approach, well-tested in the tradition of literary studies within France, groups works analytically and evaluatively in terms of such categories as actional motifs, plot-frames, and sociologically relevant locations or topics, thereby enabling a clearer focus on the dynamics of preoccupation and tendency that form networks of affinity across the fiction produced in the period surveyed.