Aug 22, KenyanBibliophile rated it really liked it This was a fun read. A ridiculously fun read. A few posts down my Instagram feed I went on a long rant about African literature focusing on the same generalizing themes. Wainaina tackles stereot This was a fun read.
All of the people who do this are white. Nobody from China asks, nobody from Cuba, nobody black, blackish, brown, beige, coffee, cappuccino, mulatte.
Now people write to ask me for permission to write about Africa. They want me to tell them what I think, how they did. Be frank, they say, be candid. Tell it like it is. I have considered investing in a rubber stamp. They come crawling out of the unlikeliest places, looking to be whipped.
I am bad, Master Binya, beat me. Once in a while I do, and it feels both good and bad, like too much wasabi. Bono sent a book of poems. How bad, how very bad. They preferred hotel gyms in Europe.
But German cigarettes were not as good as Nigerian cigarettes. German vegetables were not as good as Nigerian vegetables.
German beer was, when you really looked, deep into the foam, not nearly as light and golden as Nigerian beer. When all is said and done, they said, stamping out their cigarettes and smelling of fine French cologne, Nigeria is the best place.
Have you been to Abuja, they asked? Abuja is ultramodern, they said, and we all looked out at the wet, gray, old, stained buildings in front of us.
One day a man I know called me in some agitation. Do not offend them. I had not mentioned anyone by name, but he was personally affronted. I have never really understood what that means, where that is, the pale, and why such a mild-seeming phrase promises interpersonal Armageddon.
In a fit of anger, maybe even low blood sugar — it runs in the family — I spent a few hours one night at my graduate student flat in Norwich, England, writing to the editor of Granta.
So I wrote a long — truly long — rambling email to the editor. To my surprise, Granta wrote back right away. A year or so later, another Granta editor called. Sure, sure, I said. And then remembered, felt guilty, felt the weight of a continent on my back.
I was blocked and more blocked. I drank a Tusker. Finally I wrote something about Bob Geldof. It was shit, said the editor — not his words, but he meant to say that, and he was right. So I went back to work. I was busy working on a short story, busy working on my novel. The beach, in Lamu.
An extract, that is. Sure, I said, absentmindedly. He sent me a draft. Phew, I thought, absentmindedly. Cut, paste, cut, paste. A few flourishes here or there.Wainaina is currently working on two books of non-fiction; one based on that Granta essay, the other his fabled ‘big Africa book’.
But he says once those are out of the way, he will get to work in earnest on his first novel. In his essay "How to Write about Africa," published in Granta in , Binyavanga Wainaina, 40, offers satirical advice to Westerners writing about Africa. In doing so, he points out the clichés and simplifications of much of .
Binyavanga Wainaina is a Bard Fellow and the Director of the Chinua Achebe Center for African Literature and Languages at Bard College.
His most recent book is One Day I Will Write About This Place: A Memoir. Africa is big: fifty-four countries, million people who are too busy starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your book.
The continent is full of deserts, jungles, highlands, savannahs and many other things, but your reader doesn’t care about all that, so keep your descriptions romantic and evocative and unparticular.
Remember, any work you submit in which people look filthy and miserable will be referred to as the 'real Africa', and you want that on your dust jacket.
Do not feel queasy about this: you are trying to help them to get aid from the West. The biggest taboo in writing about Africa is to describe or show dead or suffering white people. This was a fun read.
A ridiculously fun read. Under "irony" in the dictionary, there's a little picture of Binyavanga Wainaina. It's a very short, tongue-in-cheek reflection about Africa and the people who write about Africa. A few posts down my Instagram feed I went on a long rant about African literature focusing on the same generalizing themes/5.