Monday 18 February 2013

Gods and Soldiers, 2009, Rob Spillman ***

Gods and Soldiers is a collection of short stories and excerpts from novels by African writers. Excerpts in bold because I was actually let down by the number of novel extracts herein. A lot of passages from already published books. Even though it was not my case, what if I have read those novels?

This anthology of African Writing is divided into six sections: West Africa, Francophone Africa, North Africa, East Africa, Former Portuguese Colonies and Southern Africa. And in each category there is a subcategory of nonfiction and fiction.

West Africa
Nigeria and Ghana.

Chinua Achebe: "The African Writer and the English Language". Could an African really write in English? For instance Nigeria; Colonialism might have disrupted many things; however, it united many tribes and ethnic groups and gave them a unique language to speak in. Therefore, those writers who have inherited the colonial language, and decided to use it, should not be resentful (they aren't betraying their mother tongue). They should rather use it to the best advantage. As a matter of fact, they needn't use it as the native speakers. It is undesirable. Rather, they should use it in a way in so as to deliver their message and carry their African experience. Submitting itself to various uses is the price the English language has to pay for being an international language.
A knowledgeable essay that I enjoyed and highly recommend.

Helon Habila: I discovered him with "Lomba". I liked this short story about a "political prisoner" during the Abacha's regime, whose superintendent asked or rather forced to write poetry -sultry poetry- for his (superintendent) girl friend. Who later discovered that the poems were actually written by a prisoner.
I love Habila's style. He's definitely got talent. I am looking forward to reading more of his works.

E. C Osondu: "Voice of America". The story here is about a village boy who fell in love with an American girl through a letter. I love Osondu's style, is as if he was giving a vivid account of an event that took place. I could sense Achebe in his writings.

Mohammed Nassehu Ali: "The Manhood Test". An engaging story, very hilarious and entertaining at the same time. However, I had the feeling he was making a lot of effort to write. In any case, I have added his last published novel in my TBR.

Chris Abani. Excerpt from "Becoming Abigail". I did not enjoy.

Chimamanda Nozi Adichie: "Half of a Yellow Sun", the short story. I have read the novel before; still, I took so much pleasure in reading this short story. I just love the way she tells our story, as simple and as beautiful as that.

Francophone Africa
I did not enjoy any of the stories. In my opinion, the translation was just so poor. Fortunately, I am polyglot and I would so much love to read those stories in their original versions.

North Africa
Egypt, Algeria and Sudan

Laila Lalami: "The Politics of Reading". She talked about the evolution of the North African Literature and its similarity with other African writings. An insightful essay indeed. In fact, I discovered a lot about other North African writers whose works I hope to read soon.

Nawal El Saadawi: Excerpt from "Woman at Point Zero". A short but intense read. Added to my TBR

Leila Aboulela: "Souvenirs". The story might not be too attractive; however, I love her style. You can tell she is full of talent.

The rest under this category was a sort of drudgery. I was not interested in reading more excerpts from novels.

East Africa
Kenya, Uganda, Somalia and Djibouti.

Bianyavanga Wainaina' excerpt from "Discovering Home" was boring.

The only story I enjoyed in this section is the excerpt from Wizard of Crow by Ngugi wa Thiong'o. I love the message it carries, written in a way that made me rolling in the aisles. Of course, The original novel is now in my TBR.

Former Portuguese Colony
Mozambique and Angola

Mia Couto's essay "Languages We Don't Know We know". An African is a good example of a modern civilised person, who not only speaks in his native tongue, but as well in the European. Perhaps, it is high time we start to appreciate this fact, and stop torturing ourselves with whether it is right or wrong to communicate in a language that was forced onto us. Instead, make the most of it by carrying our message beyond our borders. Conversely, we will not let perish our mother tongue, it is our identity and we will continue to cultivate our culture.

Excerpt from the "Book of Chameleons" by José Eduardo Agualusa. My perspective for this novel was high until I read the excerpt. I still intend to read it though.

I did not enjoy the other story by Onjaki "Dragon Fly".

Southern Africa
The only story I enjoyed here was "Dead Swimmers" by Yvonne Vera. The rest, I eventually had to skip.

Do I recommend you to read this book? If it comes along your way, please do. If it does not, I wouldn't bother purchasing it. As I earlier mentioned, too much extracts from novels. Luckily, I borrowed it from the library.


  1. Looks like a good collection. I'll check some of the writers out. :)

    1. Not bad, if you don't mind reading excerpts from novel.

  2. I would have been disappointed by novel excerpts also. But at least it sounds like you got a good sense of what authors you do and don't want to read next!

    1. Hey Biblioglobal,
      You are spot-on.Probably there are those who wouldn't mind; however, I deem it unfair to sell a book made up of passages from novels.


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