Review: The James Currey Anthology

Eugen Bacon's review of the James Currey Anthology features in Aurealis Magazine #157 (Australia) in February 2023.

The Review in full here:

Review by Eugen Bacon 

This unique anthology of everything African comes in two parts: short stories and creative essays. Editor Stephen Embleton, himself award-winning as a writer, showcases the diversity of African fiction writing and the intensity of African critical thinking. This book sings voices from the continent on matters of death, dirge, superstition, patriarchy, belonging, and more.

The pertinent miscellany opens with Mbaeze Nnedimma’s darkly twisted ‘Ihekanwa’, the voice of a child on the power of fear and belief a Rubin’s blossom—young and tender, the rarest plant with its properties of healing—belief.

Offering the secret of in a shoebox is N. A. Ntumy’s ‘Don’t Whisper the Secret’ that talks to sickness and

A standout emerges in Uchechukwu Peter Umezurike’s ‘The Story is an Egg, or Five Fragments’ that unravels in mindful vignettes, stories within a story, rich with African naming and the storytelling tradition of the motherland. Lynn Nyaera stretches out the matriarchal theme in a shrewd story on the lengths a mother will go for her children.

The stories resurrect friendship, family, forbidden love and what else in canny or resourceful characters with innate or learnt skills of survival, sometimes their very existence at stake.

In a mood change, the creative nonfiction pieces skilfully wrap around unsettlement, tribal warfare, the sense of belonging, unbelonging, censorship and age-old matters still affecting African peoples and societies today.

A laudable anthology from true grassroots, paying homage to an academic publisher specialising in African studies. James Currey, co-founder of James Currey publishers, now an imprint of Boydell & Brewer, is sometimes termed ‘The Godfather of African Literary’ for his pioneering of African literature to British and then global attention.

Currey’s well-founded belief remains integral to the rise of Chinua Achebe, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o and other African greats and newer writers today. The James Currey Anthology reminds us this. 

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