ONE OF THE MOST REMARKABLE LITERARY DEVELOPMENTS of the past decade has been the more or less simultaneous eruption onto the world stage, after a long fallow period, of nearly a dozen popular new novelists from Africa. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, NoViolet Bulawayo, Teju Cole, Alain Mabanckou and Dinaw Mengestu are all young African writers who have worked in America. Many teach at or are graduates of creative writing schools, institutions that are sometimes scorned for being literary factories. Yet these writers’ voices, anything but undistinguished, are as distinct as the African countries they come from, whether Nigeria in the west, Zimbabwe in the south or Ethiopia in the east.
And the flood shows no sign of slowing. Last fall, a first novel by a 33-year-old Cameroonian, Imbolo Mbue, reportedly sold at the Frankfurt Book Fair for a million dollars. That book, “The Longings of Jende Jonga,” will not be published before 2016. Meanwhile, this year’s most promising African newcomer may well prove to be Chigozie Obioma. An Ibo, like Nigeria’s best-known novelist, Chinua Achebe, Obioma was born in southwestern Nigeria and has recently joined the faculty at the University of Nebraska. He is still in his 20s.
“The Fishermen” is a biblical parable set in the 1990s, when Nigeria was under the military dictatorship of Gen. Sani Abacha. Nine-year-old Benjamin, the narrator, is the youngest of four brothers. His father is a progressive man who works for the Central Bank of Nigeria. Education and professional ambition, he believes, are the only antidotes to the canker of corruption that has spread into every corner of his country’s life. Benjamin’s father wants his children to “dip their hands into rivers, seas, oceans of this life and become successful: doctors, pilots, professors, lawyers.” >>READ MORE