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« Internet Activism: Bloggers are Africa's New Rebels | Main | Cameroon: The United States Against Scrapping Presidential Term Limits »

February 01, 2008


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Nga Adolph

There are some literary lessons one can draw from Kangsen Feka Wakai in his various literary reviews which I had the opportunity to read.In 'The Enchantments','Asphalt Effect' and a number of Francis Nyamnjoh's works.
When u look at his style of appreciating a literary work it doesn't only involve evaluation per se but also personal,impressionistic,or emotional apprehension of the work.Ofcourse,the emotional or personal aspect of reading a work is very important as it decides whether we want to go on to study a work and how we are going to do it.However, when personal appreciation leads to subjective and vague judgement,it should be rightly avoided.
Through Wakai's reading of a work like the 'The Enchantments'he does all to interprete the meaning of the work taking care to conserve the rich meaning behind the work.
I think much still has to be done to beef up literary criticism in Cameroon by encouraging more literary intellectuals getting into that field so as to maintain the quality of our literary works.In countries like neighbouring Nigeria I think its a well developed and organised field reason why Nigerian writers enjoy a certain degree of literary fame around the world.Giving the opportunity for young and budding writers like C.N Adichie in her "Half of a Yellow Sun" to enter the limelight.

Nga Adolph.


Hi Adolph,

Every literary critique is personal, and is determined by the background, literary and even political inclination of the reviewer. You mention Adichie. Please, read the reviews of her work in Western newspapers such as The Guardian, Independent (UK) Washington Post, New York Times, Le Monde, and you'll understand what I mean.

And talking about Adichie, her popularity has nothing to do with the quality of literary criticism in Nigeria (she became famous in Nigeria thanks to her fame in the West, not the other way round). Adichie is one of the lucky ones who stumbled on a literary agent who could place her book with a reputable publishing house like Random House. Give the Nyamnjoh's and other Cameroonian writers the same exposure, and they too will become household names at least in Africa. What Cameroonian literature in particular and African literature in general lacks is not serious critique but the kind of exposure that the now defunct African Writers series offered first generation writers like Mbella Sonne Dipoko in Cameroon and even Achebe and Soyinka in Nigeria. Resolve that problem and the Adichies would not be the African exception but the rule.

That said, I raise my hat to the likes of Kangsen Wakai who even bother to buy, not to talk of reviewing (!!!), the few books being published by Cameroonian poets, novelists, etc.

Mondo Cyril

Nga Adolph

Nada,not every literary critique is necessarily personal.A literary critique can evaluate a piece of work in an objective manner by bringing in the held opinions of other writers or scholars on a particular subject.Still,literary criticism maybe influenced by social,cultural,political etc considerations which have nothing to do with the critique's personal opinion.
Its a pity not to recognise the role of literary criticism in fostering the quality of literary work.Literary criticism provides the poet or writer with the tools for self_evaluation and self_improvement.The "common reader" would rely on a good literary critique to explain a complex work.
When u say that Adichie's "fame" comes from the fact that she "stumbled on a literary agent who could place her book with a reputable publishing house",I consider it a joke in bad taste.Before any reputable publishing house worth its salt accepts to publish a piece of work,they employ the services of experts to give a wall to wall anaysis of the quality of the work and whether the book can sell on the market.The 29 year old Adichie's work is simply a masterpiece and that's why it gained international prowess.
We always give excuses for our inadequacies.If the works of Nigerian writers find the necessary exposure what stops our own writers from having such an exposure? During the heydays of the African Writer series(AWS), yes we had the Dipoko's,Jumbam's,Sotabinda's et al and they had their Soyinka's,Achebe's et al.Today we have just a few serious writers we can boast of safe for people like the Nyamnjoh's.The problem to resolve is the quality of the work of our writers and encouraging a reading culure in Cameroon.

Nga Adolph,



In your piece, you argued that Adichie was popular because of the quality of Literary criticism IN NIGERIA. I said that was not true. Nothing you have written changes that fact. Adichie is a great writer but unlike many great writers in Nigeria and elsewhere in the world, she found a literary agent who had enough clout to have the work of her client to even be reviewed by the publisher of her first work, purple hibiscus. The success of that work had absolutely nothing to do with literary criticism in Nigeria. That is the point I am making.

You call Nyamnjoh a serious writer. good. But how many Cameroonians know him as such? How many have ever seen a single copy of his books? Do you sincerely believe that there are no writers as good or better than him in Anglophone Cameroon? The problem in Cameroon is not the absence of writers but of outlets. A novel or a play by a literary giant such as Bole Butake which is published by CEPER never finds its way out of Cameroon. Thus Butake will NEVER have the clout of his Nigerian counterparts who are as talented or less talented than him but who teach in Western universities and can therefore be published by publishing houses that have access to amazon.com and other online retail outlets.

Back to the issue at hand. A good literary criticism is one that situates a work in its appropriate context. Wakai does just that by making the reader to clearly understand that this work is part of an emerging literature which was born out of the political turmoil of the early 1990s. That is what will interest the regular reader. Now, it is for literature departments to deal with issues of rhyme and rhythm, metaphor, satyre, etc. without being bothered by the broader socio-political context of their creation.

So there are different types of reviews, and Wakai's is just one of them.

BTW, I just did a google search for this book and came across the kind of "serious review" that you seem to like which si done by a university lecturer and I frankly do not see how it is different from Wakai's - you can check it out for yourself and we'll take it from there - http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/books/43388

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