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Generally, writers who compose in English from East, Central, and South Africa are often regarded as 'rebels.' These writers express cultural consciousness, similar to their West African counterparts. The themes explored by writers from East, Central, and South Africa are focused on their respective environments. This differs from the non-hostile activism seen in West African writers. In contrast to their West African counterparts, writers from East, Central, and South Africa entered the realm of artistic expression at a later stage. Their intricate experiences significantly influence their artistry.

East and Central African Novelists:

Khadambi Asalache, a Kenyan, unfolds the heroic tale of Shiyuka in his debut novel, "A Calabash of Life" (1967). Shiyuka, a determined young warrior, seeks to reclaim the vatirichi chieftaincy stolen from his family by Dembla. Overcoming opposition, he triumphantly regains the title. Asalache transcends a simple plot, infusing it with a multitude of characters and incidents that illuminate conflicts and resolutions. The hero's bravery and cultured nature contribute to his victory over adversaries, as Asalache skillfully translates the oral poetry of his people into fiction.

Legson Didimu Kayira's "I Will Try" (1966) is autobiographical, chronicling his boyhood years and the pursuit of education in his Mpalae village in the Karonga district of Malawi. "The Looming Shadow" (1967) explores the clash between traditional beliefs and modern Christian faith. In "Jingala" (1969), the tension between old and new surfaces in the relationship between widower Jingala and his son Gregory, who, influenced by education, abandons tradition to become a Catholic priest.

Leonard Kibera, a Kenyan, presents a collection of short stories co-authored with his brother in "Potent Ash" (1967). His initial novel, "Voices in the Dark" (1970), follows Gerald Timundu, an unsuccessful playwright using his plays to chronicle the unfortunate fate of Mau Mau fighters, consigned by the government to the cold ashes of lost history.

Bonnie Lubega, a Ugandan, delves into the plight of outcasts in "Outcasts" (1971). The protagonist, Karekyezi, along with his family, is deemed uncivilized, responsible for tending to the cattle of their landowners. The novel vividly portrays the pungent odors of human and animal waste in their environment. Karekyezi, playing along with the villagers' perception, cunningly steals their cattle, culminating in his dismissal by the angered villagers.

South African Novelists:

The debut novel from the prolific South African author, Peter Abraham, didn't emerge until 1942. The incorporation of indigenous literature somewhat impeded the development of South African literature in English. Starting with the theme of corruption in the city, Abraham progresses to explore the malevolence of oppression. "Tell Freedom" (1954) critiques the intolerable social system in South Africa, compelling youths to question their dreams and escape the clutches of a society entwined with corrupt politics.

Abraham's "Dark Testament" (1942) and "Song of the City" (1945) depict life in contemporary South Africa. "Mine Boy" (1946) narrates the story of Xuma, who departs from his rural home to the city's dazzling lights, only to be confronted by the harsh realities of a place where money is paramount—gambling, lawlessness, the squalor of people's lives, pimping, and prostitution define the city's nature.

In "Path of Thunder" (1945), the focus shifts to the average "coloured" South African. Through the eyes of Lanny Swartz, the main character, the reader witnesses a South Africa segregated along color and class lines. Swallowed by poverty and corruption, the protagonist reflects the plight of his people. Other works by Abraham include "A Night of Their Own" (1965), "This Island Now" (1966), "A Wreath for Udomo" (1956), "Wild Conquest" (1950), and "Return to Gholi" (1956).

Alex La Guma, exiled from South Africa, was a realistic and passionate writer. "A Walk in the Night" (1962) delves into the life of Michael Adonis, portraying a South African existence marked by violence, crime, punishment, apathetic regimes, and pervasive inequality. "The Stone Country" (1967) recounts the writer's prison experience, capturing themes of violence, hatred, and love. Protagonist John Adams fights against the apartheid regime, making the prison a microcosm of South African political society. La Guma's short stories in "Quartet" (1965) include 'Out of Darkness' and 'A Glass of Wine.'

Zambian writer and critic Andreya Masiye authored "The Lonely Village" (1951), a collection of short stories in Nyanja, a Zambian language. "Before Dawn" (1971), published in English, depicts life in a Chiparamba valley village in the 1930s. The narrative revolves around Kavumba, an orphan whose mother became entangled in the clash between tradition and European medicine.

Ezekiel Mphahlele, considered one of the founding fathers of modern African literature, made a significant change in 1977 by altering his name from Ezekiel to Es'kia. Commencing his education at the age of thirteen, he successfully completed high school, taught both English and Afrikaans, and later assumed the role of fiction editor at Drum Magazine. His autobiographical short story, "Down Second Avenue" (1959), vividly exposes the harrowing conditions of living under the South African apartheid regime. Additionally, his literary contributions include works such as "Living and the Dead" (1961), "In Corner B" (1967), "The Unbroken Song" (1981), and "Renewal Time" (1988), all of which are short stories addressing issues prevalent in the African continent.


This article has delved into various East, Central, and South African novels. Key takeaways include insights into:

- Novels and novelists in East and Central Africa.

- South African novels and notable novelists.

- Themes explored in selected East, South, and Central African novels.

- Plot elements observed in East, South, and Central African novels.


Alice, Warner (1928). Native Poetry in East Africa. Nairobi: Longman

Ayese S. A. (2014). The Crossings: Plot Structure of African Novels. Lagos: B Prints.

Creighton Thomas R. M. (1965). ‘An Attempt to Define African Literature’. Gerald Moore (ed). African Literature and Universities. Ibadan: Ibadan University Press, pp. 84 – 88.

Creighton, Sam (1950). South African Novelists. London: Penguin Books.

Dathorne, Oscar R. (1975). African Literature in the Twentieth Century. Great Britain: Heinemann Educational Books.

Janheinz, John (1963). The Handbook of African Literature. New York: New York University Press.

Lemon, Brook (1969). Africa and Her Novels in Perspective. Lesotho: Help Press.

Levington, Stoole (1960). Vernacular Literature Across Africa. Ibadan:


Mphaphlele, Ezekiel (1952). African Literature: The Proceedings of the First International Congress of Africanists. London: Longman.

Palmer, Eustace (1972). An Introduction to African Novel. London: Heinemann. Whiteley, Wilfred H. (1956). ‘The Changing Position of Swahili in East Africa ’. Africa 26, pp. 343 - 353.

Wellington, Brown (1970). West and East African Novelists. Nairobi: Macmillan.

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