African stories

A timely anthology of short stories reveals the strength of contemporary African fiction—and, writes Ruth Franklin, the growth of globalised, “post-national” literature

Ruth Franklin

Africa in the 21st century, carved into an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of countries (the latest being South Sudan), is no longer the empty space that once served to represent it on European maps. But African literature, to many outside the continent, tends to be a blank page, or at least a sparsely written one. In his introduction to The Granta Book of the African Short Story, the Nigerian writer Helon Habila laments the number of times he has attended a lecture on African literature that “begins and ends with Things Fall Apart, as if nothing has been written in Africa since 1958.” This new collection seeks to introduce readers to what he calls a “post-nationalist” generation of writers, those born largely after colonialism, for whom national politics are no longer a defining obsession—an obsession, Habila believes, that once restricted African writers’ ambition. “As long as people have freedom to think and discuss and travel and find fulfilment, and are not slaves to the nation and politicians, they will create art and put down their best thoughts and ideas in the form of stories,” he writes.

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The Granta Book of the African Short Story
edited by Helon Habila (Granta, £25)

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