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Africa's 100 Best Books of the 20th Century
A list celebrating Africa's contribution to literature.
 Africa's 100 Best Books of
 the 20th Century – Full List
  Children's Literature:
• Al-Homi–Tadjo
  Creative Writing:
• Achebe–Diebar
• Emecheta–Nyembezi
• Okigbo–Yacine
  Scholarship/Non-fiction:
• Amin–Van Onselen
 
 Elsewhere on the Web
• Zimbabwe International Book Fair
 

As the Millennium approached, the Modern Library Board in the USA published a list of the '100 great English books of the 20th Century'. Only three were by African-Americans, and none were written by writers from the African continent. Even Africa's three Nobel Laureates, Wole Soyinka (1986), Naguib Mahfouz (1988), and Nadine Gordimer (1991) were ignored. In Ghana, February 2000, inspired by this omission, the world renowned African academic Professor Ali Mazrui announced a project to compile a list of 'Africa's 100 best books of the 20th Century'.

The project was officially launched at the Zimbabwe International Book Fair (ZIBF), in collaboration with the African Publishers' Network, the Pan-African Booksellers Association, and the Pan-African Writers Association. Three categories were opened for nomination: children's literature, creative writing (novels, short stories, plays, and poetry), and scholarship/non-fiction. A book was considered African if it was written by someone either born in Africa or by someone who had taken out citizenship in an African country.

From an original list of 1,521 nominations, a short list of 500 was obtained. A jury of 16 African academics and ministers, headed by Cape Town University's Vice-Chancellor Njabulo Ndebele, selected the final top 100. The final list was announced in Ghana on 18 February 2002, with a special celebration being held at the 2002 ZIBF, and at an Indaba in Cape Town (held outside Zimbabwe because of the political turmoil) where some of the authors gathered during August 2002.

Although the list is not ranked, a selection of the 12 'best books' was taken from the top 100. These are given below in alphabetical order (no distinction was made between their respective merits). The full list is given here.

In response to the predominantly Anglo-Saxon nature of the Modern Library Board's list (only three authors were non-native English speakers), the African Top 100 has examples from several languages. However the majority are in English and many of the others are available in translation. As well as English and French, the original books include those written in Xhosa and Afrikaans (from South Africa), Kikuyu (Kenya), Yoruba (Nigeria), and Swahili (East Africa).

Top 12 African Books
Chinua ACHEBE
(Nigeria)
Things Fall Apart
Meshack ASARE
(Ghana)
Sosu's Call
Mariama BÂ
(Senegal)
Une Si Longue Lettre
(Trans. So Long A Letter)
Mia COUTO
(Mozambique)
Terra Sonambula
Tsitsi DANGAREMBGA
(Zimbabwe)
Nervous Conditions
Cheikh Anta DIOP
(Senegal)
Antériorité Des Civilisations Nègres
Assia DJEBAR
(Algeria)
L'Amour La Fantasia
Naguib MAHFOUZ
(Egypt)
The Cairo Trilogy
Thomas Mokopu MOFOLO
(Lesotho)
Chaka
NGUGI wa Thiong'o
(Kenya)
A Grain Of Wheat
Léopold Sédar SENGHOR
(Senegal)
Oeuvre Poétique
Wole SOYINKA
(Nigeria)
Ake: The Years of Childhood

The complete list of Africa's 100 Best Books of the 20th Century is listed alphabetically according to the three categories given above.



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