Michela Wrong rss

Robert Mugabe attends the funeral of Solomon Mujuru (Photo: Getty)

A murder mystery in Zimbabwe

8 August 2015
The Death of Rex Nhongo C.B. George

Quercus, pp.320, £16.99, ISBN: 9781784292324

This novel comes with two mysteries attached, one substantial, the other superficial. The big mystery is the author’s identity. Gender-neutral, nominally Anglo-Saxon, almost provocatively bland, ‘C.B. George’ screams ‘pseudonym’ to… Read more

Blikkiesdorp, the shack settlement where Asad lived for the two years during which he and Jonny Steinberg collaborated on the book

Refugees and resilience: a story of Africa

24 January 2015
A Man of Good Hope Jonny Steinberg

Cape, pp.334, £18.99, ISBN: 9780224094122

I would love to sit in on a Jonny Steinberg interview. Over the years this South African writer has perfected a form of reverse ventriloquism, in which he becomes the… Read more


Witnesses in the heart of darkness

29 March 2014
Congo: The Epic History of a People David Van Reybrouck

Fourth Estate, pp.639, £25, ISBN: 9780007562909

When presented with a 639-page doorstopper which includes 82 pages of closely-written sources, notes and index, most of us feel a bit like a patient about to swallow a strong… Read more

A sign common in Johannesburg, South Africa, 1956 Photo: Getty

How to get around South Africa's many boundaries

15 February 2014
Dispatcher: Lost and Found in Johannesburg Mark Gevisser

Granta, pp.354, £18.99, ISBN: 9781847088581

There are writers whose prose style is so fluid, so easy, the reader feels as though he has been taken by the hand and is being gently led down a… Read more


Letter from Somaliland

31 August 2013

Ayan Mahamoud, one of the organisers of Hargeysa’s International Book Fair, has all the girly vulnerability of a factory-tested steel girder. So it was disconcerting when, having called to the… Read more


Africa's election aid fiasco

20 April 2013

The development industry is as fashion-prone as any other. Fads come and go. There are a few giveaways when it comes to spotting them. Deceptive simplicity is one indication. The… Read more

Change of heart

9 February 2013
The Lion Sleeps Tonight and Other Stories of Africa Rian Malan

Grove Press, pp.317, £17.99, ISBN: 9780802119905

A stomping bestseller is a hard thing to recover from. The author is doomed to see all future works compared and found wanting. Is his new book vivid? Certainly. Funny?… Read more

The first casualty

29 September 2012
Ryszard Kapuscinski: A Life Artur Domoslawski

Verso, pp.464, 25, ISBN: 9781844678587

Some years ago, I was included in a round- robin from a group of African writers trying to whip up support for an anti-Ryszard Kapuscinski campaign. The plan, as I… Read more

The making of a president

1 September 2012
My First Coup d’Etat, And Other True Stories from the Lost Decades in Africa John Dramani Mahama

Bloomsbury, pp.318, £15.99, ISBN: 9781608198597

When presented with a title of this kind, many readers think they know what to expect: drugged-up child soldiers, wince-inducing brutality, ranting demagogues, rebels in women’s wigs. This, thankfully, is… Read more

Not for sissies

3 December 2011
Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria Noo Saro-Wiwa

Granta, pp.272, 14.99

Nigeria is not exactly a tourist destination. A colleague chortles over the memory of trying to wangle his way in — without a journalist’s visa — during Sani Abacha’s military… Read more

Who Killed Hammarskjöld? by Susan Williams

29 October 2011
Who Killed Hammarskjöld? Susan Williams

Hurst & Co, pp.306, 20

When I was a Reuters trainee, long hours were spent in Fleet Street pubs absorbing the folklore of journalism from seasoned veterans. One popular story concerned the hapless correspondent sent… Read more

Lucky miss

9 July 2011
The Other Barack: The Bold and Reckless Life of President Obama’s Father Sally H. Jacobs

Public Affairs, pp.297, 20

In Dreams From My Father, his exploration of race and roots, Barack Obama recalled the tales heard in childhood about the man who gave him his name. His father, they… Read more

Fear and loathing in the Congo

7 May 2011
Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa Jason K. Stearns

Public Affairs, pp.400, 18.99

Jason Stearns is a brave man. He once worked for the UN’s disarmament programme in eastern Congo, a job which required him to probe the forests around the town of… Read more


When words fail

5 May 2010
The Memory of Love Aminatta Forna

Bloomsbury, pp.464, 17.99

Ignore the title, with its subliminal echoes of Mills & Boon. Aminatta Forna’s magnificent second novel is not really about love. Its themes are far grittier, and all the more… Read more


In the shadow of Mau Mau

24 March 2010
Dreams in a Time of War Ngugi Wa Thiong’o

Harvill Secker, pp.256, 12.99

When the Kenyan human rights campaigner, Maina Kiai, recently addressed the House of Commons, his list of policy recommendations probably surprised many MPs. Be tough on Kenya’s fractious government, he… Read more


A sage on his laurels

13 January 2010
The Education of a British- Protected Child: Essays Chinua Achebe

Allan Lane, pp.172, 20

Last year, at a gathering in a London bookshop, the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe read poetry and mused over his long career. The evening was a sell-out, the mood adoring.… Read more

Bluff and double-bluff

2 September 2009
Summertime J. M. Coetzee

Harvill Secker, pp.264, 17.99

Like Philip Larkin in ‘Posterity’, imagining an American lecturer yawning over his research into an ‘old-type natural fouled-up guy’, J.M. Coetzee places himself in the shoes of a notional English… Read more

Black humour

15 July 2009
The Worst Date Ever Jane Bussmann

Macmillan, pp.372, 11.99

‘The trouble with most people,’ a reporter friend of mine once remarked, ‘is they just don’t grasp the funny side of genocide.’ He was a rather eccentric friend, possessed of… Read more

When hopes were high

13 May 2009
We Have Tomorrow: Stirrings in Africa 1959-1967 Peter Mackay

Michael Russell, pp.355, 20

Dons don’t usually appear to much advantage in fiction. For those who follow African affairs, these are not happy times. Once regarded as passé, the military coup is enjoying something… Read more

Killing with kindness

11 February 2009
Dead Aid Dambisa Moyo

Allen Lane, pp.188, 14.99

When I wrote a regular column on Africa for this magazine’s left-wing rival, I was always intrigued by the contrast in responses to any sceptical article on aid. ‘This reactionary… Read more