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Assigned reading from Koranteng

One of the most elegant, poetic and thoughtful writers in the African blogosphere is my friend Koranteng Ofosu-Amaah. I occasionally suffer conceptual whiplash reading his blog, “Koranteng’s Toli”, where he switches with little warning from highly technical discussions of internet protocols to musings on history, literature and the past and future of Africa.

Koranteng’s in the middle of a multi-part discussion of Africa and modernity filtered through the lens of literature, specifically Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” and Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”. The meditation was sparked by a visit to a university’s African studies department. Talking to the department chair, Koranteng tells us:

Eventually I asked about the background of the students who come to study African history at the university. What has changed, she said, is that these days the average student would have read Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe whereas previously it would have been Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (or say Joyce Cary’s Mr Johnson if they had a British background).

Koranteng sees this change as bittersweet. On the one hand, experiencing Africa through Achebe means encountering the continent through the eyes of an African, rather than a European, writing from memories of his African travels. It also means that Nigeria’s great novelist has vaulted onto a stage shared with greats like Conrad. On the other hand, as Koranteng asks: “Should Africans be content with Things Fall Apart? And if so, is the message of Brand Africa simply a celebration of the hard knock life?”

The posts in the “Things Fall Apart” series include a close reading of Africa Report magazine from 1966, a tour through Africa via Apocalypse Now, and a poetic rumination on identity theft, looking at the terrible moment when some believed one of the 7/7 London bombers was a Ghanaian.

Pour yourself a beer or a coffee and settle down for a long read – after all, you’d better catch up before the man writes again. He’s promising part six in the series soon…