What’s the first book that pops in your mind when the topic of Classic Literature comes up? I think about novels like Pride and Prejudice, Animal Farm, Jane Eyre, and the likes. Reading African literature has taught me to expand my view beyond the largely white narratives, and explore classics within my own culture. Classic literature is a term used to describe older works that are timeless and essential to their genres/categories. Many African works fall under this category. Including books like Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions. These works, like many others are crucial to the study of African Literature because they broke boundaries in their time, and they offer readers a glimpse into earlier years.
To pay homage to the African Literary Classics, and their contribution to African Literature, here are 10 essential African works that I haven’t read (but plan to do so in the future). Some are quite popular, and others not so much. I hope you get one or two recommendations from this list.
1. The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born by Ayi Kwei Armah
2. So Long a Letter (Une si longue lettre) by Mariama Bâ
3. The Famished Road by Ben Okri
4. A Grain of Wheat by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
5. When Rain Clouds Gather by Bessie Head
6. Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz
7. Houseboy by Ferdinand Oyono
8. Efuru by Flora Nwapa
9. Equiano’s Travels by Olaudah Equiano
10. Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El-Saadawi
Let me know if you’ve read any of these books, or if you have any recommendations on which one I should read first. Which African Classics have you read?