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The bundle of printed material on that desk is no ordinary pile of paper. It is the completed manuscript of a highly-anticipated novel.

Mid last month, Zimbabwean novelist Petina Gappah was sitting in a train some where in Eastern Europe while “making final frantic edits to [the] manuscript” of her fourth book. At the time, she had barely two days to wrap up the edits and ship off the manuscript to her agent. About a week later, she received good news from her agent. The manuscript was great and ready to move on to the next stage of the publishing process.

Yesterday, Gappah posted this photograph from Geneva announcing the official completion of the manuscript. The novel is titled The Last Journey. It tells the story of David Livingstone’s African attendants who carried his dead body for nine months from the southern African hinterlands to the coast. It’s one of those amazing stories lost in the archives of Africa’s colonial past. Shout out to Gappah for taking up the story and making it mean something for us today.

The epic nature of the story is mirrored in Gappah’s sense that this book could very well turn out to be her magnum opus. Last year, she said in a Guardian interview:

I am finishing a novel that I really see as my life’s work. It is a story I have been obsessed with since I was 16, about the Africans who carried the explorer David Livingstone’s body across the continent for nine months, braving great danger in order to bury him in his homeland. 

We share Gappah’s excitement over meeting this milestone. Of course, completing the manuscript is only the beginning of the long road to publication. But we are excited for her. As we get more news about publication dates, cover image, and so on, we’ll definitely let you all know.

 

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Post image from Petina Gappah’s Facebook page.

Facebook link image via themoth.org

 

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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.

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