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Africa's 100 best books of the 20th Century
The ASC Library, Documentation and Information Department has compiled a dossier on Africa's 100 Best Books of the 20th Century project. It consists of an introduction, the top twelve list, the top hundred list, and a selection of Web resources. All the titles listed in the top hundred list that are available in the ASC library are linked to the library catalogue.
For information about this dossier and the availability of titles, email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: +31 (0)71 527 3354.
Ali Mazrui AFRICA'S 100 BEST BOOKS OF THE 20TH CENTURY project was first suggested at the 1998 Zimbabwe International Book Fair in Harare. Ali Mazrui came up with the idea of a list of Africa's 100 best books in order to direct the world's attention on the achievements of African writers who have had their work published during the 20th century. A jury, chaired by Njabule Ndebele, considered over 500 nominations from the original list of 1,521 nominations proposed by individuals and institutions all over the world. The nominations were subjected to rigorous criteria which included, inter alia, an assessment of quality, the ability to provide new information or insight, a continuing contribution to debate, and the extent to which a book broke down boundaries. The final list had to reflect a balance of regional representation, gender, historical spread and genres of writing.
The top 100 list was launched in Accra, Ghana, on February 18, 2002 and the Awards Presentation Gala took place in Cape Town on 28 July. The 2002 Zimbabwe International Book Fair (30 July-3 August) was devoted to the Best Book project. Its theme was the impact of African writing on world literature.
Having selected the top 100 list, the jury then choose the best twelve African books of the twentieth century. The books - in African and European languages or in Arabic - were divided into three categories: children's writing, non-fiction/academic writing and creative writing.
Many of the books are in the ASC library, but children books and work in African languages or Arabic do not meet the criteria of collection development and are unfortunately not available. In some cases, a title is available in translation.
This dossier consists of:
Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart, 1958
This book, by Nigeria's most famous writer, portrays the impact of British colonization on the life of a settled African community. The author not only informs the outside world about Ibo cultural traditions, but also reminds his own people of the value of their past.
Meshack Asare, Sosu's Call, 1999
This book received UNESCO's 1st Prize for Children's Literature.
Mariama Bâ, Une si longue lettre, 1979
The Senegalese writer Mariama Bâ (1929-1981) received the 1980 Noma Award for Publishing in Africa for this book. The novel captures the everyday frustrations that many women face, especially after the death of their spouses.
Mia Couto, Terra Sonâmbula 1992
Born in Mozambique in 1955, Couto has managed to blend, in a unique way, African oral tradition and Portuguese literary language. More than just a novel about the recent civil war in Mozambique, this is a book in which broken and fragmented identities are exposed.
Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nervous Conditions, 1988
The first novel of this Zimbabwean writer portrays an African society whose younger generation of women struggle with varying degrees of success and failure.
Cheikh Anta Diop, Antériorité des Civilisations Nègres / The African Origins of Civilization: Myth or Reality, 1955
This book presents Diop's main thesis that historical, archaeological and anthropological evidence supports the theory that the civilization of ancient Egypt, the first that history records, was actually Negroid in origin. The English text is a one-volume translation of the major sections of the first and last of the books by Cheikh Anta Diop (1923-1986), i.e., Nations Nègres et Culture (1954) and Antériorite des Civilisations Nègres (1967)
Assia Djebar, L'Amour, La Fantasia, 1985
Djebar is a contemporary writer from Algeria. The novel describes the conquest of Algeria and the war of independence from a woman's perspective.
Naguib Mahfouz, The Cairo Trilogy, 1945
The Cairo Trilogy is a panoramic three-part work written to explain the sensitivity and mentality of the people who lived in Cairo from the 1900s to the 1940s. Palace walk (1990), Palace of desire (1991) and Sugar street (1992) each gives a rich description of their daily lives while portraying a wider historical process.
Thomas Mofolo, Chaka, 1925
The central figure in this historical novel written in Sesotho, is Chaka Zulu. Mofolo (1876-1948) explores the theme of power and its effect on those who have too much.
Léopold Sédar Senghor, Oeuvre Poétique, 1961
Oeuvre Poetique (1990) was originally published as Poèmes (1964) bringing together Chants d'Ombre (1945), Hosties Noires (1948), Ethiopiques (1956) and Nocturnes (1961). In his poems Senghor explores the mythic origins of the African persona.
Wole Soyinka, Ake: The Years of Childhood, 1981
The evocation of the wonder of a child's discovery of the world and his place in it.
Ngugi wa Thiongo, A Grain of Wheat, 1967
Ngugi wa Thiongo, a writer from Kenya, depicts some of the dilemmas that face an emerging nation in this novel in whicha village prepares for the coming of independence.
The ASC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
African Literature on the internet
An annotated site from Columbia University Libraries with links to African writers and literature and a link to Africa's 100 best books.
This discussion list on African literature and cinema is a member of H-Net Humanities & Social Sciences Online, and refers to the 100 best books project.
Africa South of the Sahara, Topics: African Literature and Writers on the Internet
An annotated guide to internet resources on African writers and literature, maintained by Karin Fung, Stanford University.
African Postcolonial Literature in English
A site with links to African authors, hosted by the National University of Singapore.
LIMAG: Litteratures du Magrheb
Maintained by Charles Bonn & Coordination Internationale des Chercheurs sur les Littératures du Maghreb. Contains all sorts of information related to literature from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.
Lire les femmes écrivaines et les littératures africaines
A site maintained by the University of Western Australia, with information on African female writers and their books, in English and French, as well as links.
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