Facts vs fiction in Africa crime

What´s facts and what’s fiction in African crime – that’s the topic for an open seminar at the Nordic Africa Institute May 21. Renowned writers as Margie Orford and Helon Habila will attend and confront their fictional worlds with reality, described by researchers.

The Nordic African Institute is organizing the event on African Crime literature on the theme: Fiction and Facts. Wanjiku wa Ngugi and Lauri Kubuitsile will also attend, representing the rising trend of Africa crime fiction. The programme  shall facilitate an interactive forum between these African authors and researchers at the Nordic African Institute and Uppsala University.

Commenting on the relevance of the event, NAI researcher Kudzayi Ngara describes crime fiction as “a representation of the artistic reflection of the society from which they emerge from.”  He associates the growth of South African crime fiction with the demands from a broader international audience interested in a dominant social issue affecting that society.

The queen of crime writers

Crime fiction writing has been earlier discovered in South Africa in the 1960s but became more prominent in the post-apartheid era. In an interview with the Shoots Crime and Thriller Ezine Margie Orford, described as the queen of the South African crime thriller writers, explained:

I’m a storyteller first and foremost, but murder, cruelty and power have been central to stories since the first fire in the first cave. Crime fiction, though, takes place in the urban mean streets where social issues play out – poverty and affluence, danger for women, the history of a complicated society. So those social issues grow out of that – everybody comes from somewhere. They carry the social with them”.

Orford has published widely acclaimed crime novels notably Blood Rose, Gallows Hill, Water Music and Like Clockwork. Her crime thriller Daddy’s Girl has been recently translated into both Norwegian and Danish.

Corruption and oppressive regimes

Helon Habila on the other hand has demonstrated through crime fiction the persisting nature of corruption and oppressive regimes in post-colonial Africa as aptly portrayed in his political thriller Oil on water.

While African writers and novelists portray scenarios, characters and socio-cultural perspectives, much contrasts existed in the crime narratives from Europe which focused more on the Clue-Puzzle, featuring a ´super-detective´.

African crime might challenge the international success of Scandinavian crime, which started in the 1960s. Swedish novelists Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö jointly produced a series of internationally acclaimed crime novels about the detective Martin Beck. Among the most successful contemporary Scandinavian writers of crime fiction is Henning Mankell, who’s detective stories are widely praised for their sociological themes, examining the effects on a liberal culture of immigration, racism and neo-Nazism. Renowned thriller writer Stieg Larsson is famous for his widely acclaimed “Millennium triology”.

Crime fiction has gained much popularity in continued development of creative writing in Africa. More than any other literary genre in African literature, crime fiction seems to combine both elements of entertainment and social commentary.

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