Books; Patrice Nganang’s Cameroon; Africa
The idea that novelists might partake in the project of nation-building by reimagining the past in order to create the possibility of a shared future dates back to at least Walter Scott. But some of the most artistically successful examples come from post-colonial Africa, where belief in the meaning of arbitrarily drawn borders can require an unusual stretch of the imagination. Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Ousmane Sembène, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie—along with many others—have produced extraordinary works of fiction that strive to reconceive national bonds (in Kenya, Senegal, and Nigeria, respectively), rather than reify them. Few countries, however, provide a conceptual challenge to the imagination of both novelist and citizen equal to that of Cameroon.