Some of you may know of this young lady. She has written two delightful novels – Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun. Only at 26, some are calling her the Tolstoy of West Africa and others are saying Chinua Achebe has found his heir apparent. She has already won big prizes in the literary world for these two books are her short stories. In short, she is a hot new star in the international literary circles. I tremendously enjoyed her two books.
Anyway, those who following the world of books and authors will notice that young African writers are entering the scene, when giants (Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Ben Okri, and others) are retiring. But look at the list of the old, and look at the list of the new. No Tanzanian. Why?
Some may see this is an unimportant concern. But, for me, the life of the nation is defined by a body of the works of art that its people produce. Many countries have a “national novel” (if you wish), a major book or books that embodies the lives of the people or at least define a particular era in the life of that nation.
I read what, for us, are classics: Shaaban Robert, Mzee Kezirahabi (“Roza Mistika”), and a few others. Good stuff, but did not really define our society. Shaaban Robert was a great fantasist, and therefore could not have accomplished a literary masterpiece to define the soul of our nation. What Musiba and others wrote in latter days are like Robert Ludlum – riveting but that is all.
I don’t believe we lack imagination or a "soul" to translate into a literary work. I just don’t know why in the good old African Writers Series we did not feature, and in this new wave we are not present. I have heard of the argument that things are tough in Bongo therefore we are too preoccupied with making a living as to focus on producing great books. I think this is ridiculous. Most great works came out of (comprehending and making sense) hardship.
Anyway, perhaps our generation will rise to the challenge. But not if all we want to write and read is not literary enriching, and not if we are fearful of narrating our existence.