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on 21 April 2012
From the shores of the river Nile to the hallowed halls of Oxford, taking in sultry nights in the island of Mombasa and the fast-moving streets of America, these are stories of life, love, death and everything else in between. They will entertain, inform and challenge you. The different writing styles, subject matter and characters are well balanced and arranged to provide a wonderful reading experience. African writers have truly come into their own. I would recommend this book to anyone.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 June 2016
As a non-specialist reader, one of the joys of this impressive collection of 29 short stories by authors from 20 African countries selected by the Nigerian novelist and poet Helon Habila is his perceptive and fluent Introduction. In this he considers the position of the short story in African literature and explains the thinking behind his decision to order the stories from the youngest author [Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, b. 1977, from Nigeria] to the oldest [the South African Alex La Guma, 1925-85].

The challenge remains an impossible one – ‘to gather together the stories of a continent that is larger than China, Europe, and the United States put together’.
I was only previously aware of Adichie, Olufemi Terry [from Sierra Leone, whose 2010 Caine Prize-winning short story ‘Stickfighting Days’ I had recently read], the Franco-Congolese Alain Mabanckou , Aminatta Forna [born in Scotland but raised in Sierra Leone], Alaa Al Aswany from Egypt and the Zanzibarean Abdulrazak Gurnah. A handful of stories are translated, from Arabic, French and Portuguese, by Piers Amodia, Raphael Cohen, Humphrey Davies, Polly McLean, Ronald W. Sousa and Stefan Tobler.

The book presents the ‘third [post-nationalist] generation of African writers, who, until now, have rarely been anthologised.’ For the editor ‘Africa's strength is not, contrary to what most people like to think, its homogeneity, but in its diversity of cultures and languages and religions and skin colours’. Habila does not focus on common themes across Africa, but provides examples of the varied themes and approaches that have emerged since independence and are of importance to postcolonial writers.

The stories are brief and the topics so diverse that I simply dipped into the compendium over a couple of weeks. Reading it this way rather than ‘in order’ reduces a potential problem of repetition. Such repeated themes include migration and return [and their associated melancholy and excitement], family ties and their disruption, poverty, racial discrimination in Africa and beyond. Underpinning many stories are concerns for post-colonial identity and the memories, or reality, of the violence of the period.

Amongst the most memorable stories are Forna’s ‘Haywards Heath’ which addresses the issue of dementia through the meeting of former lovers in an old people’s home in Sussex. It is superbly and sensitively balanced. Like a minority of stories, it is set outside the African continent. Patrice Nganang’s ‘The Moustached Man’ imagines a pre-WW I meeting in Berlin that might have changed the course of world history. In ‘Préférence Nationale’, Fatou Diome elaborates the feelings of an educated African subject to oppression and derision in France. In parallel with this, ‘The Arrangers of Marriage’ by Adichie describes a Nigerian woman involved in an arranged marriage with a Nigerian-born American physician who feels her identity is slowly seeping away from her. La Guma’s ‘Slipper Satin’, written in 1963, reminds the reader of the depths of racial oppression and segregation that is perhaps more insidious today.

The quality varies – how could it not, but throughout the book there is a freshness and vitality that is engaging. Whilst the dates and origins of publication can be found at the end of the book [‘Permissions’], it would have been helpful if the date could have been presented at the beginning of each story.

The majority of the authors are living outside Africa and it is interesting to speculate how their stories would have differed had they been writing from African locations.
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on 2 September 2014
The content of Africa has inspired so many epic novels and travel books that the short story genre has often been overlooked.

Granta have decided that this omission needs to be addressed, and have released this collection of short stories written by African authors. They are set primarily in Africa, but there are other stories set in different parts of the globe.

As with any collection there are the good, the bad and the indifferent. Some are really well written, others less so, but they all deal with issues that affect the African people, from unwanted pregnancies, living in the West, superstition religion and even a piece of speculative fiction set in pre war Berlin.

Overall not a bad collection, and a good starting point for those wishing to discover the literature that Africa has to offer.
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on 28 July 2013
Not a bad book but it's a bit mixed. The stories are written by different authors so some are bound to be more absorbing than others. Quite interesting if you want a bit of insight into modern-day Africa but I wonder how true a depiction they are. The one story that reflected an element of cynicism and the 'playing of a part' to appease the expectations of Western tourists was also one of the least interesting tales, despite having a more relevant message.
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on 28 May 2013
This is an amazing collection of short stories. For me this was quite an eye opener to discover so many great writers. And there are stories expressed to suit most people's tastes. A good read especially if you are short on time. Why not read one as you wait for the train - or in that delayed flight queue?
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on 18 January 2013
A really lovely selection of stories from the continent, all varied and interesting. A worthwhile buy for for anyone who is a fan of short stories.
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on 21 June 2016
A really good, diverse introduction to African writing which is not otherwise very accessible to UK readers. There's something for everyone in there and I'd recommend it to anyone with an interest in Africa and its literature.
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on 30 January 2013
Wonderfully written, varied short stories by African writers - would definitely recommend to anyone wanting to explore outside the beaten track
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