Whether written through the lens of speculative fiction or ancient myths and legends, African fiction has often featured animals as central characters in their narratives. We have put together this booklist to celebrate African fiction centered on animal imaginaries.
Animal stories are not new to African novelists. Going as far back as 1981 when Ahmadou Kourouma’s Suns of Independence was published, African fiction has continued to feature animals in their narratives in some shape or form. Most recently, African speculative fiction has been turning to animal imaginaries such as Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon which begins with a swordfish narrator watching aliens land in Nigerian waters or Marlon James’ Black Leopard Red Wolf which features a shape-shifting man-animal character called Leopard. We are especially fond of Noviolet Bulawayo’s intriguing novel Glory, recently shortlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize. Using African fables, Glory narrates the events of Zimbabwe’s political unrest after the fall of Robert Mugabe using animal characters to represent human politics. Animals are used as political allegory in other novels as well such as Zoo City by Lauren Beukes. Still others personify animals to speak about the human condition such as Alain Mabanckou’s Memoirs of a Porcupine and Patrice Nganang’s Dog Days.
We hope this book list inspires you to read more animal stories in African fiction. We promise that our list will not disappoint!