Posted on 3rd November 2010

Posted by Fiction Uncovered

The tale of how a novel comes to be published

The tale of how a novel comes to be published, then gains a reputation at all, as well as the various hurdles in its way, can sometimes be as intriguing as the plot itself. It is ironic that a novel about how it feels to be overlooked can itself be overlooked. Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga was initially dismissed by publishers as failing to reflect the thoughts and expression of  ‘the African woman’. This is a novel, though, that challenges those very preconceptions of what it is to be a woman. Set in 1960s Rhodesia, it is still resonant today, telling the visceral tale of Tambu, her bid to gain an education, and the battles between Western colonial culture and traditional African culture, which create an unnerving tension throughout the narrative.

There is an exciting new generation of writers exploring Africa in powerful and passionate prose, and I had the privilege of chairing events with them at the Storymoja Hay Festival in Kenya recently.  Barassa is a talented young writer also exploring Rhodesia.  Her raw and haunting novel Victory examines the devastating effects of genocide, and what happens when two people from different tribes fall in love and disobey their parents’ will.

The Kenyan writer Martin Njaga’s novel The Brethren of Ng’ondu is a vividly evoked love story set in a rural community, compellingly depicting the religious tensions in a modern society.  A. Igoni Barrett’s collection of short stories From Caves of Rotten Teeth reflects in striking imagery the day-to-day existence of modern Nigerian life. These are just some examples of those whose lingering and thought-provoking fiction deserves a wider audience across the shores.

Anita Sethi is a journalist, writer, critic and broadcaster In the coming months she will be uncovering fiction around the world in a special series of blogposts.



Jo Michie

6th November 2010 at 10:54

‘Nervous Conditions’ by Tsitsi Dangarembga is quite an old book I’ve had a copy for years, and it has even made it onto a list of the set books for reading in South African high schools. There are so many wonderful African writers that it is hard to start listing them all.
Having spent the first 22 years of my life in Africa and being a voracious reader I have begged, bought and borrowed as many books of African fiction as possible and must have a collection of 150+. Most are from Central and South sub-saharan African writers, though I do have some from West Africa. Indeed I have just read an excellent first novel from a young Nigerian author: ‘I Do Not Come to You by Chance’ by Adaaobi Tricia Nwaubani. Can’t wait to read her next book. I’ll happily supply a book list if you want one.



27th December 2010 at 13:26

Hello Anita
just to tell you that it was really nice of meeting you!
i loved ur interview in storymoja festival and ur critics abt Victory.
Happy new year

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