Young Nigerian Writers Produce A Wave Of New Fiction
Two years ago, in Nigeria, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim was ready for an extreme backlash following the publishing of his provocative novel Season of Crimson Blossoms which talked about issues such as ethnic violence, political corruption, female sexuality, and drug use; all topics that are taboo in the predominantly Muslim conservative Hausa culture of Nigeria.
However, Abubakar started to be treated as a rising literary star and won the Nigeria Prize for Literature, awarding him $100,000, as well as the African Writer’s Residency Award from Goethe Institute.
Cassava Republic, a Nigerian publishing house, got international publication rights for the novel and released it in the United States, Britain, Germany, Kenya, and South Africa.
Nigeria’s literary setting
Abubakar is part of the new generation of young Nigerian novelists that are gaining prominence internationally. His success is a sign that the flourishing literary scene is promoting boundary-pushing and groundbreaking fiction.
For a while now, Nigeria has been a literary hub and home to some prominent writers such as Helon Habile, Lola Shoneyin, and Wole Soyinka. A few years ago, African writers who gained success abroad weren’t read widely in their own country. However, now, many Nigerian young authors are successfully building an audience at home too, and the appetite for contemporary issues and fiction is gradually increasing.
As writers experiment and explore different genres and topics like polygamy, the rise of Boko Haram, and violence against women, the country is producing stylistically and thematically diverse fiction.
The reason behind the success
Cassava Republic, Abubakar’s publisher, has been majorly responsible for the literary renaissance of Nigeria and is working exhaustively to release books in America after it expanded to Britain in the previous year.
However, instead of selling publishing rights to the publishing house of America, Cassava Republic distributes the books to American booksellers via a Minnesota based bookseller called Consortium.
While the expansion doesn’t really have a commercial impact, it does have cultural importance. The global aspirations of the company symbolise a crucial landmark for African literature. Till now, the majority of the African literature present in the West had been filtered by American and European editors and publishers who choose work based on the educational and historical importance.
Now, however, an African publisher is picking out the books that the world should see. Consequently, readers in the West can now choose from various titles which include children’s books, crime, contemporary African romance, and fantasy.
Co-founder of Cassava Republic, Ms. Bakare-Yusuf, aims to publish those Nigerian writers that gain fame in the West but aren’t read at home. She started off by getting the publication rights for those novels that had been already published abroad and then distributed them in Nigeria. Later, she looked for original work and published exciting novels.
Now, after more than ten years, Nigeria’s publishing house has upward of 50 titles under its wing and has published all genres including memoir, science fiction, and fantasy too. Until now, in the United States, the company has only published eight books. In the coming year, the company plans to publish nine titles in the United States alone.
The novels distributed by Cassava Republic in the West have a range of styles, subjects, settings, and genres. As a result, America has gotten a broader view of Nigeria’s contemporary fiction. More and more Nigerian novelists are testing the waters and are writing for entertainment purposes only. Plus, many writers are no longer compelled to talk about colonialism or Western notions regarding African literature.
Future of Nigerian literature
Now, as more Nigerian authors receive global prominence, the range, as well as the diversity of fiction present in the country is completely on display for the world to see.
Of course, Nigerian publishers and writers still have to face significant obstacles. Until recently, the publishing market primarily had educational books. Moreover, piracy is still a big problem that squeezes out the profit from the film, music, and publishing industry. Pirated books circulate openly in the markets, and there are hardly any formal bookstores in the region. At the same time, illiteracy is another major problem, and for a major part of the population, books are thought to be a luxury which is still difficult to attain.
Despite all the problems being faced, the publishing industry of the country has blossomed tremendously in recent years, after the country’s return to democracy after years of military dictatorship. In the previous few years, many writing workshops, book prizes, and literary festivals have sprung up, and apart from Cassava Republic, many publishing houses have also been formed including Ouida books and Farafina.