What are your thoughts on “African Books to Inspire”?
I spend most of my time looking into the screen of my laptop waiting for the right phrase, the better wording of a sentence – sensing semi-formed ideas welling up – and so often feeling them slip away before they can be fixed. Sadly, after years of writing frustration, of solitude and contemplation, I am a no better writer, but I have come to appreciate the writing of others all the more.
I have spent much of this year working with the British Library on an exhibition of West African writing and it has given me the chance to re-read and re-consider so much of the work that has inspired me – the unfathomably huge talent of the post-colonial titans, Soyinka, Achebe, of Ama Ata Aidoo – the writers of the colonial period like Kobina Seyki and my own grandfather Joseph Ephraim Casely-Hayford, and I feel catalysed by their brilliance. These were writers whose work demonstrates a complete understanding of history, but who were unafraid to be daring and innovative. It is a kind of writing that seems of have inspired a new generation. I see that poetry, that understanding, that ambition in Ben Okri, in Aminatta Forna and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, dazzling, contemporary talents who force us to look anew at things we thought we knew well.
Dr Gus Casely-Hayford, Cultural Historian (Presenter of Lost Kingdoms of Africa)