Quirky Books: An African Treasury selected by Langston Hughes

Friday, May 28, 2010

An African Treasury selected by Langston Hughes

A collection of articles, essays, stories and poetry from Africa it is not a translation. Hughes requested writing written in English from Africa. The introduction explains how challenging it was compiling the book. South Africa and Sierra Leone have an advantage, because of English settlements. As occupied countries, especially South Africa who suffered Apartheid, offer vastly different cultural accounts.

This does not overshadow the articles and essays from Nigeria and Ghana. In fact, it establishes a perspective. The article from Sierra Leone expresses a strong sense of nationalism, while the article from Nigeria is a typical article with a scientific tone and nature. The absence of greater thoughts about nationalism and racism speaks volumes. Not that "Return to West Africa" wants to convey racial attitudes. The writer condemns racist friend who speaks of the ills of reducing individual integrity, because of news stories.

The stories range from horrifying to romantic. Bizarre stories relate to tribal culture. A cultural practice is explained in a parable of why lions hunt rams and goats: "Ajantala, the Noxious Guest." The imagery and inclusion of scent brings the reader into vivid accounts of daily life. Though some plots are average, many are intrinsic and the writing itself is excellent.

It is profound how an article forms into one story of how the countries of Africa understand South Africa's struggle and then form an alliance. It resolves into a happy ending though history is unique from the sentiment.

A fun part of the book is how a writers attempts to mimic their local dialect, "And den what?" Other article allude to discrepancies in dictionaries, fore I do not understand how someone would, "ejaculate," words. I am sure they mean "exclaim," or "assert." In another essay a person is, "restive," as opposed to, "restless." Some words remain mysterious, such as, "fetish priest." This might be correct, yet those two words do not appear cohesive.

People often forget the continent of Africa is composed of several countries. The variety of writing addresses a large audience, including a few stories and poems for children. Politicians will enjoy the contrasts between differing governments. Philosophers will enjoy the varying ideals of a remote country. The key to reading this book is in understanding the writers as a person with similarities to United States culture.

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