What the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Wole Soyinka gets wrongby Musab Younis / February 15, 2013 / Leave a comment
The rush of activity which arrested and forced back colonialism on the African continent in the 20th century didn’t just produce hundreds of political leaders, communiqués, bureaucracies, and conferences. It also gave spark to an intellectual renaissance, with scores of novels, plays and stories surging into print. Many people encountered this work in the 1960s through the Heinemann African Writers Series, which Chinua Achebe described as “the umpire’s signal for which African writers had been waiting on the starting line.”
For the first time, wrote Achebe in his essay collection Home & Exile, African readers and writers could read “works by their own writers about their own people” alongside staples of the western canon. That series, founded in 1962 by the young publisher James Currey, brought dozens of new writers to prominence in distinctive orange-spined paperbacks. The publication of Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart in 1958 had shattered the received wisdom, as Currey writes in his biography, that it was only possible to sell school textbooks in Africa. Heinemann went on to publish major works by Soyinka and Ngugi, amongst many others.