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Articles tagged "Africa"

PEN World Voices Festival As It Happened: \“In and Out of Africa\”

Photo: Molly Leon/PEN American Center Regular attendees at PEN World Voices know that the advertised theme of a panel may have little relation with what you end up hearing from the participants. The more participants there are, the more this may be true. “In and Out of Africa,” held at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse, featured eight African authors on one stage, with three moderators to keep things more or less on track. The authors included Adéwálé...

PEN World Voices Festival As It Happened: \“African Poets: The New Generation\”

On Thursday evening at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, an eager crowd settled in to hear a discussion about Eight New-Generation African Poets, a box set of chapbooks just released last month. Although editor Chris Abani had been unexpectedly waylaid and was unable to make the event, editor Kwame Dawes was joined in lively conversation, and readings, by Akashic Books publisher and editor-in-chief Johnny Temple, and poet Ladan Osman. After an introduction by PEN Trustee Laura Baudo Sillerman, who...

The Prodigal Father

Tomáš Zmeškal’s father was a Congolese intellectual who traveled to the capital of Communist Czechoslovakia in 1959 to win support for the soon-to-be independent Republic of Congo, but never made Prague his home. In Socrates at the Equator: Family Reportages (2013), Zmeškal uses a mix of reportage, memoir, and journal entries to describe his search for his father and his encounters with his father’s family in Congo itself. A writer can rarely stop...

The Curse of the South

“Two kinds of people live in this city: The ones who were born here, and those who came here, fleeing something. Me, I wasn’t born here!” When his fever peaked and he started to sweat, at night, the truck driver’s assistant brought him to the closest clinic along the road. The doctor received him and asked him his place of birth. He didn’t answer,but simply exposed his right shoulder to show him his tuberculosis vaccination scar. Mary, the tall Italian girl....

On the Fourth Day

He arrived on a golden-yellow tricycle and offered to tow me. Frail sexagenarian, sickly thin frame, angular face, his craggy skin suggesting an old case of the chickenpox. A lightly broken-in cowboy hat made him look like a worn-out pistolero straight out of a Sixties Western. “Hop on board my taxi!” he said. I declined the offer, suggesting I walk beside him while he rode the tricycle. The man invited me to dine. Difficult to refuse such a priceless invitation given the...

Cyarwa cya nyarwaya

Cyarwa is the birthplace of my mother. She left when she was two years old and came back when she was forty, accompanied by her older brother. This poem is the story of their return after years of shared exile, in Burundi, Belgium, Ivory Coast, and France. Your daughter returned this morning Your son embraced you once again Cyarwa cya nyarwaya Your stories flow in the blood of my dear ones Your roots are written in the lines of our hands Cyarwa cya nyarwaya You, the land of my grandfather...

Poor Grandpa!

I never wanted to remember at all, let alone write about, what transpired when I took a walk with Grandpa to the sprawling Kariobangi slum area, that part of the slum known as Korogocho. I didn’t want to look back again, to reopen an old wound. An open sore for which there is no remedy, one that has refused to improve to a scar. An open sore. A huge open sore. It oozes with pus and discomfort, and constantly fills me with fright. However, my friends have urged me to write in detail...

\“Friendship is a religion\”

Tahar Ben Jelloun was born in the city of Fès in 1944. He attended an Arabic-French elementary school, studied French in Tangier until the age of eighteen, then studied philosophy and wrote his first poems at Mohammed V University in Rabat. He is best known for his novels The Sand Child and The Sacred Night, each of which has been translated into forty-three languages, and Racism Explained to My Daughter, which was translated into thirty-three languages. Ben Jelloun's slim...

The Beginning and End of the Oil Curse?

Why does oil wealth so often become a curse for developing states?  In the developing world, oil-producing states are fifty percent more likely to be ruled by autocrats, and more than twice as likely to have civil wars, as non-oil states. They are also more secretive, more financially volatile, and provide women with fewer economic and political opportunities.  For the last thirty years, good geology has led to bad politics. Not all states with oil are susceptible to the...

When Can We Be Sane?

We reel shamelessly in joyful shrillness For the gloomy glimmer of blinking lights Nursing our failing consciences In the cold slab of childish ego   I remember Coleridge’s sea  Without a healthy drop to drink:   We have them here. Otovwodo gas plant, The biggest gas reserve in Sub-Saharan Africa   We have them here. Erhioke Oil Field in Kokori-Orogun A precious oil meadow that churns out Bent and...

Support the Publication of Geoff Wisner’s \\\“African Lives\\\”

Words without Borders is pleased to announce that writer, editor, and WWB contributor Geoff Wisner's second book, African Lives: An Anthology of Memoirs and Autobiographies, will be appearing next spring from Lynne Rienner Publishers.   The book will include more than 40 selections from African writers across the continent, including several that Wisner has written about for WWB: Assia Djebar (Algeria), Manu Dibango (Cameroon), Leila...

A Memoir Disguised as a Novel

Harper Perennial, which reissued A Life Full of Holes in 2008, describes it on the cover as “the first novel ever written in the Arabic dialect Moghrebi.” Yet there is more than a little doubt as to whether it is a novel at all. A Life Full of Holes was told to Paul Bowles in Moghrebi by a young man named Larbi Layachi, over the course of several months. Bowles recorded and translated each episode, refraining as far as possible from editorial interference. “Apart...

Illustrating Conflict: Perspectives from FIBDA

Under the heading "Algiers, Bubbles without Frontiers," this year's International Comics Festival of Algiers (Festival International de la Bande Dessinée d'Alger, or FIBDA) provides an important space for discussions and works around history, war, and conflict. I previously wrote about FIBDA in this series with an eye to the role it has played in the evolution and renaissance of Algerian comics. In this installment I would like to focus on the role comics can play as a...

from “Passage of Tears”

[Translators’ note: This excerpt, taken almost entirely from the first chapter, presents one voice in a polyphonic novel. The other main voice is that of this narrator’s twin brother, a fanatic Islamist imprisoned with his “venerable Master” in a cell on an island off the coast of Djibouti. Still another voice appears in palimpsest as the Islamist takes dictation from his Master: it tells the life of Walter Benjamin. Excerpts from an earlier version of that section...

French

Rwanda: The Flame of Hope

1 The sunny side of life Recently one evening, as trails of ochre tinged with mauve kept stretching late into the sky of Mantua, I found myself face to face with Predrag Matvejević, the writer from Mostar and host of the writers' conference. He was alone with a bottle of red wine, looking grim. The man who had gone all over the now defunct Yugoslavia seemed to carry the disappearance of a part of the world on his slumped shoulders. In a moment of extremely lucid weariness, he...

From “Mezzanine”

The pages that follow were found by me in a sorry state of disorder, amidst a number of other worthless papers, spotted with tropical mildew, ready for the fire, in the basement of a bookstore where I worked for a number of years as a classifier. What follows is the personal history, and last-minute confessions, of a man and his ways. Before presenting this book to the Greek world of letters, I feel it necessary to publicly thank, in these very flat lines, Mr. Realon Delorean, an old...

Blizzard in the Jungle

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Sweating and Swearing in “Clash of Civilizations”

In the opening chapter of Amara Lakhous's gritty mosaic, Clash of Civilizations over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio, Parviz Mansoor interrupts his rambling monologue to comment on the way language is used by the nosy doorwoman, Benedetta: Guaglio' is Benedetta's favorite word. As you know, guaglio' means "fuck" in Neapolitan. At least, that's what a lot of Neapolitans I've worked with have told me. Every time she sees me head for the elevator she starts...

An Introduction to Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio

"Doesn't make any difference who we are or what we are," a cholera germ announces in one of Twain's stories, "there's always somebody to look down on!" No recent novel illustrates the truth of this axiom with more precision, intelligence, and humor than Amara Lakhous's Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio, which is exactly what the title promises, except better. It's a satirical but not unsympathetic examination of the events leading up to a murder...

from “Agaat”

The first time you slept with Jak was the day after he came to declare his intentions to your parents. He was eager to get away that morning after the engagement, eager to get away from under your mother's eyes after the sermon he'd endured from her the night before, and especially eager to get his hands on you. You knew it, Milla Redelinghuys, you played him. How did you experience him then? Can you really remember it? Don't forget the keys, Ma called. She jingled...

The Last Farm Novel?: An Interview with Michiel Heyns

I met Michiel Heyns—author, translator, and professor of English at Stellenbosch University from 1987 until 2003—last year when he was here in the U.S. as a visiting professor at the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma. He's a tall, large-framed man who easily dissolves into crinkles of laughter, quickly revealing a gentle spirit beneath the somewhat imposing exterior. He's an ideal dinner companion—charming, erudite, gracious, and full of wit. And though our...

Electric Africa

Brian Eno once famously remarked that the problem with computers is that there isn't enough Africa in them. I kind of think that it's the opposite: they're bringing the ideals of Africa. After all, computers are about connectivity, shareware, a sense of global discussion about topics and issues, the relentless density of info overload, and above all the willingness to engage and discuss it allóthat's something you could find on any street corner in Africa. I just...

The Best Seller

On the phone he said he was a young writer who wished to speak with a representative of Ilhéu Publishing and, for lack of anyone else at the time, I made myself available to see him. Shortly afterward a man of indeterminate age introduced himself. Ceremonious, humble, weighing each word, he extended almost fearfully a timid hand. (I wondered whether that was the attitude of all authors when they approach a publisher for the first time.) He was carrying a crumpled plastic bag that,...

The Best Seller

He described himself down the phone as a young writer who was keen to meet with a representative of Ilhéu Publishing, and in the absence of anyone else at that moment I agreed to receive him. Shortly afterwards a man of indeterminate years was announced. Rather formal, modest, weighing every word, almost fearful, he held his hand out to me hesitantly. (I wondered whether all authors behaved like this when meeting a publisher for the first time?) He had brought with him a crumpled...

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