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9780374525507

Under African Skies Modern African Stories

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780374525507

  • ISBN10:

    0374525501

  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 1998-08-05
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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Summary

Spanning a wide geographical range, this collection features many of the now prominent first generation of African writers and draws attention to a new generation of writers. Powerful, intriguing and essentially non-Western, these stories will be welcome by an audience truly ready for multicultural voices. Charles R. Lansonpioneered courses in African, African-American, and Third World literature. The author of numerous critical volumes, includingThe Emergence of African Fiction, he teaches at American University in Washington D.C. Spanning a wide geographical range, this collection features many of the now prominent first generation of African writers and draws attention to a new generation of writers. Powerful, intriguing and essentially non-Western, these stories will be welcome by an audience truly ready for multicultural voices. "We have waited for these stories. Much like the prodigious memory of the griot,Under African Skiessings out a literary genealogy of oppression, rage, honor, and triumph in a range of voices from acerbic to lyrically buoyant."--Maxine Clair "Under African Skiesgives rich testimony to the resilience of this century's African writers. Powerful, intriguing, and essentially non-Western, these stories offer an unforgettable introduction to contemporary African literature."--National Black Review "These fictions reveal a whole new (or old) world, as complex and various as the continent from which they come.Under African Skiesshows us, in close-up, the human faces of the people whose pain we watch from a distance on the evening news."--Francine Prose,Elle "This expansive collection of modern African stories breathes with the depth, range, and variety of the continent itself."--Virginia Quarterly Review

Author Biography

Charles R. Larson pioneered courses in African, African-American, and Third World literature. The author of numerous critical volumes, including The Emergence of African Fiction, he teaches at American University in Washington D.C.

Table of Contents

Introduction
The Complete Gentlemanp. 3
The Eyes of the Statuep. 13
Sarzanp. 27
Black Girlp. 40
Papa, Snake and Ip. 55
A Meeting in the Darkp. 68
A Handful of Datesp. 84
Mrs. Plump. 91
Tekayop. 125
Two Sistersp. 138
Girls at Warp. 153
The Prisoner Who Wore Glassesp. 169
In the Hospitalp. 177
The True Martyr Is Mep. 191
Innocent Terrorp. 203
Africa Kills Her Sunp. 210
Afrika Roadp. 222
Why Don't You Carve Other Animalsp. 228
The Magician and the Girlp. 232
A Prayer from the Livingp. 238
Effortless Tearsp. 244
Give Me a Chancep. 249
Takenp. 258
I'm Not Talking About That, Nowp. 270
My Father, the Englishman, and Ip. 288
A Gathering of Bald Menp. 293
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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Excerpts

Under African Skies
Amos Tutuola
(BORN 1920) NIGERIA
Amos Tutuola's writing career began in 1948, when he mailedThe Wild Hunter in the Bush of Ghoststo the Focal Press in London. In an earlier letter, Tutuola had described the ghost narrative, claiming that the text would be accompanied by photographs of Nigerian spirits. According to Bernth Lindfors, when the Focal Press received the work, "the 77-page handwritten manuscript had been wrapped in brown paper, rolled up like a magazine, bound with twine, and sent via surface mail. When the sixteen negatives accompanying it were developed, all but one turned out to be snapshots of hand-drawn sketches of spirits and other phenomena featured in the story. Tutuola had hired a schoolboy to draw these illustrations and had photographed them. He had also included a photograph of a human being sitting by the lagoon in Lagos because he felt that she adequately represented 'the old woman who sat near the river' in the story."
In Tutuola's enchanting narrative, there are illegitimate and cannibalistic ghosts, a sixteen-headed ghost, and a Salvation Army ghost, plus an educated ghost who teaches the narrator to read and write. More disturbing, the Yoruba afterworld (the domain of the spirits described in the story) has become fully bureaucratic, so complicated in its red tape that it's surprising that anyone ever passes on.
The Focal Press--publishers of photography books--quickly lost interest in Tutuola's novel, which languished until Lindfors edited the work for publication in 1982. Well before that time, Tutuola had become a worldfamouswriter, primarily because of the publication ofThe Palm-Wine Drinkard, in 1952. Reviewing the book, the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas noted: "This is the brief, thronged, grisly and bewitching story, written in young English by a West African, about a journey of an expert and devoted palm-wine drinkard through a nightmare of indescribable adventures, all simply and carefully described, in the spirit-bristling bush." The term "young English" confused the literary world, which quickly assumed that all subsequent Anglophone African writers would write in a similar style.
Clearly, Amos Tutuola's creative world is bewitching, extraordinarily vivid, and unforgettable. The Yoruba cosmology, which is central in each of the author's seven published books, often springs spontaneously alive when a character opens a door (perhaps in a tree) and enters into an entirely new world. As I wrote years ago, Tutuola's eschatology provides "a bridge between the internal and the external world (the ontological gap), between the real and the surreal, between the realistic and the supernatural."
Amos Tutuola was born in Abeokuta, Western Nigeria, in 1920. He completed six years of primary-school education, followed by training as a blacksmith, while serving in the R.A.F. in Lagos throughout World War II.The Palm-Wine Drinkardwas written while Tutuola was working as a messenger for the Department of Labor. "The Complete Gentleman" has been excerpted fromThe Palm-Wine Drinkardas an example of oral storytelling incorporated into a written narrative. Other versions of this story exist in many West African languages. (See, for example, "The Chosen Suitor," fromDahomean Narrative, edited by Melville and Frances Herskovits, 1958.)
Introduction copyright © 1997 by Charles R. Larson

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