A 19-year hiatus of African most iconic publishing brand comes to an end as a team of writers, editors, publishers and translators spearheads the relaunch of the series.
The announcement was made in conjunction with the Onyeka Nwelue-owned Abibiman Publishing and the James Currey Society in Oxford, United Kingdom. The new series will be edited by South African British author Stephen Embleton.
First launched in 1962, the series was the brainchild of Van Milne, Overseas Director of Heinemann Educational Books (HEB) and sought to provide a continental paperback series at a high quality production and sold for a relatively cheap price to encourage easy access. The early series saw the release of works by Chinua Achebe (who served as Editorial Advisor), Cyprian Ekwensi, and Kenneth Kaunda. The series went on to provide opportunities for several authors across the continent including Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Flora Nwapa and Buchi Emecheta.
The series experienced critical success while it lasted, having among its editors James Currey, Adele Maja-Pearce and Abdulrazak Gurnah. It published works by four Nobel Prize winners, several Commonwealth Writers Prize, the Noma Award, the Caine Prize for African Writing, and the Guardian Fiction Prize. As of 2003 when the press stopped the publishing new titles, the African Writers Series had published a total of 359 books.
The African Writers Series is notable for many reasons. It is largely credited with shaping African literature, providing many readers on the continent their first encounter with African writing. It also contributed to the global visibility of African literature with game-changing books such as Things Fall Apart and Weep Not Child. The news of its re-launch is exciting. Embleton reveals that the re-launched series will be no different from the original one. The three-fold mandate of the series are to “build on the legacy of the original African Writers Series, actively seek works written in African languages, and have the writers of this Continent at the helm.”
Onyeka Nwelue, author and co-founder of Abibiman Publishing, remarks: “James Currey has permitted us and given us his great blessing, to carry on the legacy of the African Writers Series. We feel most privileged.”
The series will open for submissions in early 2022. Stay tuned.
Feature image by George Hallett via Contemporaryand.com.