Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 3,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

mia-cuto-sleep-walking-land

 

Sleepwalking Land (1999) by Mia Cuto, Mozambique 

A boy and an old man are survivors in a post-apocalyptic, war-ravaged town. They stumble upon a burned-out bus and decide to make it home. While clearing out the corpses trapped and burned in the bus, they find a journal kept by one of the dead passengers, named Kindzu, who was on a quest in search of a messianic band of warriors. The journal chronicles his journey up until he dies. Nightly reading of this journal transports the old man and the boy into alternate realities and parallel spaces. The story about the old man, the boy, and their life in and around the bus begins go blend into Kindzu’s magical journey. If you like stories crowded with ghosts and strange creatures or stories where time does weird things like fold into itself and space is embedded with other parallel spaces, this is the book for you.

 

my-life-in-bush-ghost-tutuola-faber

 

My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1954) by Amos Tutuola, Nigeria

On the run from a band of slave raiders, a little boy enters a mysterious forest. For the next 24 years, he’ll search for the way back home without much success, partly because what he imagines to be an ordinary patch of forest next to his hometown is actually the Bush of Ghosts, a parallel world tucked between the human world and the sphere of the gods. In his 24-year stay in the Bush of Ghosts he has the craziest experience. At some point, he is transformed into a cow and sold into slavery. His very disturbing encounter with Reverend Devil who attempted to baptize him with fire is pretty epic. All he does in the 9th Town of Ghost is eat raw meat and get high on weed. In the Nameless Town, he hangs out with a bunch of bearded lesbians and even marries one of them. The story of his eventual escape from the Bush is no less crazy. Let’s just say it involves a very complicated teleporting technology. A word of warning: with Amos Tutuola, there’s no reality check whatsoever, so if you get hooked, there’s no way to guarantee that you’ll come out sane.

Beast-and-beings-ian-holding

 

Of Beasts and Beings (2011) by Ian Holding, Zimbabwe

It’s the day after some kind of Armageddon in an unnamed African country. There are charred bodies everywhere, burnt buildings, deserted towns and motorways, and pitch blackness at night. While foraging for food, a man, who is unnamed and presumably white, is caught by militia-men and sold to an old cannibal. He is later stolen from the cannibal by two black teenage boys.  Like a beast of burden, he is made to pull a wheelbarrow containing a pregnant woman while being starved of food, water, rest, and companionship. Here is what is deeply unsettling—the fact that the story is told from the perspective of this human captive reduced to the status of an animal. The worst part of reading the novel is an intense claustrophobia you’ll feel on account of the character.  You’ll feel the characters frustration and the sheer terror of feeling trapped in the body of an animal.

dust - owuor

 

Dust (2014) by Yvonne Owuor, Kenya

The drama in this story is played out among a dead man, his sister—also a troubled artist—his father who is burdened by an unspeakable secret, his mother tottering on the edge of madness, and a mysterious English man searching for his past. The novel is not magical in any overt sense. It is just so intense. The story never recovers from the shock of the opening scene of death—a man is gunned down in a Nairobi street. From the moment he dies and his body arrives at his father’s country house in a distant cattle-herding community, the story becomes an exploration of the disorienting experience of grief intensified by guilt and layers of unanswered questions. Characters slip in and out of reflections on death, memory, and life. The plot is choppy, but that’s because it is made up of broken bits of memories, secrets, and montages of scenes floating across two time frames—1960s Kenya and the present day.

famished-road-okri

 

The Famished Road (1991) by Ben Okri, Nigeria

Azaro has died far too many times than he cares to count. Dying is his stock-in-trade. Most people mistake him for a child, but those who know the devious ways of the spirit beings called Abiku understand that he is an ageless being who is born into the human world just so that he can die after a few years. His death brings him back to the sprit world he calls home though not for long. Soon after, he chooses another unfortunate woman’s uterus, is born into the human world only to die yet again. This endless cycle of death and rebirth is Azaro’s life until he gets sick of it and decides to stay in the human world. His refusal to die and return to his companions in the spirit world dooms him to a life of bodily and mental torture. Reality is constantly being interrupted by dream and hallucination.

 

Image by Faber Books via Flickr.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

2 Responses to “Five Mind-bending and Mood-altering African Novels” Subscribe

  1. Eugene. O 2015/01/14 at 08:10 #

    Amazing. So far, read The Famished Road and My Life in The Bush of Ghosts. Definitely expanding my reading list.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. five mend-binding and mood-altering | semper aliquid novi africam adferre - 2015/02/14

    […] Brittle takes us on a shortlist of mend-bending and mood-altering books. A nice varied selection. Old and new, from different […]

Leave a Reply

Welcome to Brittle Paper, your go-to site for African writing and literary culture. We bring you all the latest news and juicy updates on publications, authors, events, prizes, and lifestyle. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@brittlepaper) and sign up for our "I love African Literature" newsletter.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."

Archives

Demons in the Villa | Excerpt from Ebenezer Obadare’s Pentecostal Republic

pentecostal republics ebenezer obadare

Pentecostal Republic takes a hard look at the influence of pentecostalism in Nigerian politics. Prof. Obadare is a sociologist, who […]

Yasmin Belkhyr, Romeo Oriogun, Liyou Libsekal, JK Anowe Featured in Forthcoming 20.35 Africa Anthology Guest-Edited by Gbenga Adesina and Safia Elhillo

20.35 africa contributors

In February, we announced a call for submissions for a new poetry project. The anthology, 20.35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, […]

On Black and Arab Identities: Safia Elhillo’s Arab American Book Awards Acceptance Speech

Safia Elhillo - tcb book club (2)

Safia Elhillo has won the 2018 Arab American Book Award, also known as the George Ellenbogen Poetry Award, for her […]

Attend the Second Edition of the Write with Style Workshop with Oris Aigbokhaevbolo

Oris Aigbokhaevbolo (2)

Following the first edition of the Write With Style Workshop, the award-winning writer, critic, and journalist Oris Aigbokhaevbolo is hosting […]

Ngugi’s Novel, Matigari, Is Being Adapted to Film by Nollywood Director Kunle Afolayan

Kenyan author Ngugi wa ThiongÕo, Distinguished Professor of English and comparative literature at UC Irvine, is on the short list for the 2010 Nobel Prize in literature, for xxx(add phrase or blurb here from award announcement; 

Chancellor quote? Christine writing and getting approved quote).

Ngugi, whose name is pronounced ÒGoogyÓ and means Òwork,Ó is a prolific writer of novels, plays, essays and childrenÕs literature. Many of these have skewered the harsh sociopolitical conditions of post-Colonial Kenya, where he was born, imprisoned by the government and forced into exile.

His recent works have been among his most highly acclaimed and include what some consider his finest novel, ÒMurogi wa KagogoÓ (ÒWizard of the CrowÓ), a sweeping 2006 satire about globalization that he wrote in his native Gikuyu language. In his 2009 book ÒSomething Torn & New: An African Renaissance,Ó Ngugi argues that a resurgence of African languages is necessary to the restoration of African wholeness.

ÒI use the novel form to explore issues of wealth, power and values in society and how their production and organization in society impinge on the quality of a peopleÕs spiritual life,Ó he has said.

Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s 1987 novel Matigari is being adapted to film by Nollywood director Kunle Afolayan in a co-production with yet undisclosed Kenyan […]

Safia Elhillo Makes a Fashion Statement at the Arab American Book Awards

Safia Elhillo - tcb book club (2)

From Taiye Selasi’s dreamy designer collections and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s flayed sleeves and Dior collaboration to Alain Mabanckou’s dapper suits […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.