World Book Day Recommendations: Rémy Ngamije Recommends Five Short Stories

Rwandan-born Namibian writer, Rémy Ngamije recommends five short stories for Book O’Clock’s World Book Day Recommendations.

Rémy is a Rwandan-born Namibian writer and photographer. He is the founder, chairperson, and artministrator of Doek, an independent arts organisation in Namibia supporting the literary arts. He is also the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Doek! Literary Magazine, Namibia’s first and only literary magazine.

His debut novel The Eternal Audience Of One is forthcoming from Scout Press (S&S). His work has appeared in The Johannesburg Review of Books, Brainwavez, American Chordata, Azure, Sultan’s Seal, Columbia Journal, Lolwe, and many other places. He was shortlisted for the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing in 2020. He was also longlisted for the 2020 and 2021 Afritondo Short Story Prizes. In 2019 he was shortlisted for Best Original Fiction by Stack Magazines. More of his writing can be read on his website: remythequill.com.

Read him:

Photo credit: Abantu Book Festival.

The past year of lockdown has been filled with numerous short stories from around the world. Short stories, for me, as a reader, are brief intervals of time with definitive starts and ends—they have been particularly helpful in the long year of lockdown when time seemed to drag on forever. Both as a general reader and as the editor-in-chief of Doek! Literary Magazine, I have been privileged enough to read some enchanting stories and work with some truly transportive writers from Africa and its broad diaspora. Although I read stories wherever it is they are found, for this list of recommendations I focus on short stories that were published in African literary platforms.

Why?

Because.

The Couch by Zanta Nkumane (Lolwe)

My first recommendation is Zanta Nkumane’s The Couch which was published in Lolwe. It is a wonderful exploration of the ghosts that hang around after a romance’s passing. I enjoyed this story immensely because Zanta has the unique ability to craft a world full of loss and regret that is not completely crushing. Most writers would have gone full-dark. But Zanta’s too good for that. His stories always have a strange and elusive sense of hope that, I think, is wonderfully genuine. The Couch is my kind of breakup story.

It Will Be Beautiful Again by Mubanga Kalimamukwento (Doek!)

Image credit: Jean-Claude Tjitamunisa, Doek! Issue 3 Cover image.

My second recommendation is Mubanga Kalimamukwento’s It Will Be Beautiful Again which was published in Doek! Literary Magazine.

I remember when this short story popped into my inbox: so majestically tragic and so precise with its language. Mubanga has this incredible ability to harness tragedy and rope it into stories that are rewarding to the reader in the weirdest ways. It Will Be Beautiful Again is more than a deathbed narrative—it is a powerful rumination on regret, family, and that thing that I love so much: hope, in all of its frailty.

Esmerelda by Natasha Omokhodion Kalulu-Banda (Doek!)

Photo credit: Namafu Amutse, Doek! Issue 4 Cover image

The third recommendation is a no-brainer: Natasha Omokhodion Kalulu-Banda’s Esmerelda, also from Doek! Literary Magazine. Natasha’s story follows a married couple’s household after a robot maid is brought in to help with the housework. The displacement of duty, something that helps to define hierarchies within a house, is explored in what I think is a genuine voice: perspicacious and amusing. Natasha’s has wit and style to spare and she really flexes with Esmerelda.

Sunset Dreams by Troy Onyango (Isele)

I really need to stop recommending Troy’s writing so much in case people think I am a sponsored post. Really, though: I get absolutely no money from telling people to read his writing. Sunset Dreams is one of his newest pieces and it is rendered in truly exquisite language about grief and the way we carry it around. This story is also a wonderful cute-meet between Troy’s writing and Isele Magazine, a platform that I absolutely enjoy reading.

Dreams and Assorted Nightmares by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (The Johannesburg Review of Books)

My fifth and final recommendation would have to be Abubakar Adam Ibrahim’s Dreams And Assorted Nightmares which comes from his latest short story collection of the same name. I read the eponymous short story in The Johannesburg Review of Books because, firstly, The JRB is a wonderful literary platform and, secondly, Dreams And Assorted Nightmares will take forever to arrive in Namibia.

As far as short story writing goes, I look at Abubakar’s work and remain astounded by the range, depth, and complexity of the short form when it is at the tip of his pen. The attention he pays to his sentences, his characters, and the plot is astounding and Dreams shows that.

There are other writers to look out for: Jo-Ann Bekker, Joshua Chizoma, Justin Clement, Chikodili Emelemadu, Bongani Kona, Foday Mannah, Ange Mucyo, Masande Ntshanga, Irenosen Okojie, Makena Onjerika, and Erica Sugo—so many emerging and established African writers are putting out work which continuously pushes the boundaries of the short form. Most encouragingly, though, numerous literary platforms around the continent are springing up to provide homes for the abundance of stories. Beside the ones I have already highlighted there are so many others: AFREADA, Bakwa, Jalada, Kikwetu, Literandra, New Contrast, Plantin, Poda-Poda, and Sultan’s Seal are just some of the ones that I follow. Each one does a great job of showcasing the storytelling talent and range of African short story writers.

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World Book Day Recommendations is a series of recommendations made by African writers for World Book Day and #365DaysOfBookOclock.

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