Africa Writes Back — 2008

The African Writers Series and the Launch of African Literature

By James Currey

“[The book] is full of the drama of that enterprise, the drama of dealing with the mother house, the drama of dealing with the often intractable political constraints dominating the intellectual space across Africa, and not least of all dealing with the writers themselves—with their ambitions, their temperaments, their financial needs and, at times, their perception of a colonial relationship between themselves and a European publishing house.”

Clive Wake, Emeritus Professor of Modern Languages, University of Kent at Canterbury

“An essential history of African publishing and literature in the early post-colonial period, Africa Writes Back is filled with fascinating titbits and useful information. While certainly of interest to anyone involved in publishing, it should be of particular interest to readers (and scholars) of African literature, providing an extensive literary history and a great deal of context. Very nicely done.”

The Complete Review

“Highly recommended.”

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June 17, 2008, is the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart by Heinemann. This publication provided the impetus for the foundation of the African Writers Series in 1962 with Chinua Achebe as the editorial adviser.

Africa Writes Back: The African Writers Series & the Launch of African Literature captures the energy of literary publishing in a new and undefined field. Portraits of the leading characters and the many consultants and readers providing reports and advice to new and established writers make Africa Writes Back a stand-out book. James Currey’s voice and insights are an added bonus.

CONTENTS
Publishing and selling the African Writers Series
The African Writers Series Portfolio & George Hallett’s covers
Main dates for the African Writers Series

INTRODUCTION: The establishment of African Literature
Publishing Chinua Achebe

1. WRITERS FROM WEST AFRICA
Nigeria: The country where so much started
Negritude from Senegal to Cameroun
Magic & realism from Ghana, The Gambia & Sierra Leone

2. WRITERS FROM EASTERN AFRICA
Towards the oral & the popular in Kenya, Uganda & Tanzania
Publishing Ngugi

3. WRITERS FROM THE HORN & NORTH-EASTERN AFRICA
Emperors in Ethiopia
Publishing Nuruddin Farah
Arab authors in Egypt & Sudan

4. WRITERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA
Resistance in South Africa
Publishing Alex la Guma
Publishing Dennis Brutus
Publishing Bessie Head
Publishing Masizi Kunene


5. WRITERS FROM SOUTHERN AFRICAN
Guns & Guerrillas in Mozambique & Angola
Zambia Shall be Free
Death & detention in Malawi
The struggle to become Zimbabwe
Publishing Dambudzo Marechera

CONCLUSION: Is there still a role for the African Writers Series?


James Currey was the editorial director at Heinemann Educational Books in charge of the African Writers Series from 1967 to 1984. He is the recipient of the African Literary Association’s 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Cover of 'Africa Writes Back'

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