Clout of Africa
A bevy of recent publications suggests that Africa may be in the midst of its own literary boom.
by Laila Lalami
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“Treat Africa as if it were one country,” quips the Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina in “How to Write About Africa,” a barbed guide for Western authors who hope to address this misunderstood continent. “Don’t get bogged down with precise descriptions. . . . Keep your descriptions romantic and evocative and unparticular.” First published in Granta in 2005, Wainaina’s satire lands its punch by gathering the tenacious clichés about Africa—the savage and noble-savage exotica still lodged in the Western imagination, the game-hunting landscapes that seem to autogenerate purple raptures, the liberal visitor’s hand-wringing about endemic graft and corruption. Wainaina trots out a parade of straw figures such as the Loyal Servant, the Ancient Wise Man, the venal Modern African, and the Starving African, “who
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