‘Useful’ Reading? World Literature and its Place on our Bookshelves

Africa in Words writer C. E. Hastings has had a long hard look at Tim Parks’ essay, Writing Adrift in the World, and sets out her case against the ‘significance of a geographically specific literary canon.’ Parks brands writers of such literature as ‘not particularly useful’ as they don’t help us make sense of our immediate local and contemporary reality. Hastings bases her counterpoint on her reading of Marys Conde’s The Story of The Cannibal Woman.  ‘I’ve been thinking how odd this criticism is,’ Hastings writes, ‘after reading The Story of the Cannibal Woman a book set in Cape Town, written by a Guyanese author, who now divides her time between the US and France.’

With sessions including emerging research on post-colonialism and nationalism, translation of love stories in various African languages and a workshop on mapping African literature from the 1950s to the present day, Africa Writes 2015 is bound to add to the fiery debate surrounding these topics. Finally, as a festival on African literature, held in London, attended by over 1000 people of varying nationalities Africa Writes will have to forget the perceived “usefulness” of a book depending on how it fits neatly into a literary canon, defined geographically, and enjoy the festival as firstly great literature, secondly great African literature.

Read Hastings’ Article here.