Dike Okoro(ed):Speaking For The Generations: An Anthology of Contemporary African Short Stories, 2010, Trenton, Africa World Press, pp218, isbn: 1-59221-719-2
Speaking For The Generations (edited by Dike Okoro) reminds me of this sharp but inexplicable feeling that I have had since coming across Grace Ogot’s and Barbra Kimenye’s short stories many years ago. I have always appreciated the enduring quality of an African story that can be detected even when rendered in non African languages. It is about the uncanny ability to tell a story in a very simple way, without the inhibition of jawbreakers and complex plots. The story depends on the narrator's belief that what he is telling is no story but reality itself, as you find here for example in Akoli Penoukou's The Fury of The ancestors. A feeling that you are listening to this story by the fireside, with the owls hooting a mile away.
My Mother Dances in The Night by Jackee Budesta Batanda is my best story in this book. It is a swinging story which ends up rolling and tumbling like blues and jazz. A mother practices her dances in the night, unaware of her child's eye. She is both a spook and a jilted woman, and you wonder why women with souls like hers tend to float by themselves in this life. This story reminds me of Langston Hughes whose short-shorts I carry everywhere I go.
These African short-short stories trickle like threads of streams, rolling down the rocky hill like tears, and the bus you are driving in will not stop to allow you a closer look: A dead father visits a suffering child to deliver useful counsel and the poor boy cannot tell if this is dream or reality. A woman thinks that there is something in her that all the black men in her life fail to get to. A crippled man tries to tell his son that human beings will never be able to fly and that they have always wanted to fly.
Then if you are interested in issues Zimbabwean, you may not avoid Emmanuel Sigauke’s A Long Night and Eresina Hwede’s Doomsday.
In Joseph Obi’s Just A Moment, an African man is surprised that he is dying in a huge European airport public and no one will notice! You want to laugh at this story but you end up tittering uncomfortably because death is neither near nor far.
After reading one or two, or three (of these 48 stories from across Africa), you may want to look for an easy chair and decide to spend a day indoors, with this effortless book from AFRICA!