Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
I am increasingly of the opinion that Africa is leading the way in world literature.
Not only is there the recent explosive success of Chimananda Ngozi Adichie (Orange Prize winner with Half of a Yellow Sun - also huge success with Richard and Judy) there are other youngsters such as Segun Afolabi (read at C & P last year) Ahmadou Kourouma (Allah is not Obliged), Dinaw Mengestu (Children of the Revolution - Guardian first book shortlisted) and C & P favourite Sade Adeniran (Imagine This).
Then how about Ngugi Wa Thiong'o whose recent Wizard of the Crow is by all accounts excellent and extremely funny?
I should now confess to feeling almost completely ignorant when it comes to Sub-Saharan Africa in general and the literature of the region in particular. I read The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuscinski and found it an excellent introduction though also (he was Polish) the view of an outsider.
Achebe's Things Fall Apart seemed like a good fictional starting point and it was...
In many ways it tells a story that is probably not unique to Africa. Okonowo is the best wrestler of his generation. He looks set to become a great leader and one of the key members of his clan. But gradually foreign influences arrive and begin to disrupt the ancient ways of his people. As things fall apart Okonowo's world disappears.
I found many of my (ignorant) ideas about Africa were torn to pieces by Achebe's brilliant story. Excellent stuff! I'm going to read the Wizard of the Crow next...