Sunday, August 16, 2009

African crime literature... calling Ro Harris!

Rosemary Harris, a major force behind Chalula community library in Tanzania, is also a mystery novel writer... she would have enjoyed this conference I'm sure... but it was back in 2008. Still, really interesting suggestions for books...
African crime fiction represents a comparatively new literary genre and an even newer topic in the critical study of African literatures. On the surface, crime fiction is concerned with the detection of crimes (petty as well as large scale), with corruption or political conspiracies. Its capacity for bloodcurdling mystery accounts for part of its popularity. Just as much, however, African crime fiction is concerned with a whole lot of other aspects, such as questions of authority and power within a postcolonial context against potential projections of a (neo-)imperial West; with working up the past of African nations and grappling with order and disorder in postcolonial societies; and with the renegotiation of gender and race relationships. Many authors have thus broadened the theme of investigation to address issues of community, beliefs and identity con­structions across geographic and national boundaries. Others have broadened the genre by in­venting recognisable sub-categories which relate to the social, politi­cal and historical formations of their specific African postcolonies. Dealing with such “serious” issues in a complex manner has long been regarded as the prerogative of African literary works aimed at elite readerships. Today, however, crime fiction has become one of the most active and ambitious sites of literary investigation. Contemporary African authors deliberately employ the immense popularity of the genre to reach readers from all walks of life. To borrow from an essay on multicultural detective narratives, African crime fiction ingeniously represents “murder with a message” (Gosselin 1999).

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