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The Greatest Literature of Africa

The Greatest Literature of Africa is based, first of all, on the same research and surveys carried out over the past two decades for the Greatest Literature of All Time and all our other book lists (Greatest Novels, Greatest Stories, Greatest Historical Fiction, and so on).

But, to be frank, the literature of Africa's huge swath of humankind (comprising more than United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and continental Europe combined) has been largely overlooked by many of the critics, scholars and even readers upon which we've previously depended in creating our "greatest" lists.

To do justice to the great writers of Africa, we've had to extend our research widely to find new sources. More than eighty countries and cultures—ancient, pre-colonial, colonial and contemorary—had to be considered.

The resulting list is far from perfect but it's a start, as our research into classic and modern African writing continues. It may serve as a jumping off point for anyone beginning to explore the fascinating literary history of this continent.

Watch for updates as The Greatest Literature of Africa list grows.

Latest update: January 25, 2024

The 88 Greatest Works of African Literature

c.1990 BCE
Egypt
Story
c.1875 BCE
Egypt
Story
c.1200 BCE
Tale of Two Brothers
Anonymous
Egypt
Story
c.1100 BCE
Wenamun
Anonymous
Egypt
Story
c.150
The Golden Ass
Lucius Apuleius
Numidia
Prose narrative
397–400
Confessions
Augustine of Hippo
Numidia
Memoir
c.1322
The Glory of the Kings
Anonymous
Ethiopia
Prose narrative
1728
The Story of Tambuk
Anonymous
Kenya
Long poem
1789
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano
Oloudah Equiano
Benin
Memoir
1925
Chaka
Thomas Mofolo
Lesotho
Novel
1926—1967
The Days
Taha Hussein
Egyot
Memoir
1934
The Call of the Curlew
Taha Hussein
Egyot
Novel
1942
The Outsider
Albert Camus
Algeria
Novella
1945
Caligula
Albert Camus
Algeria
Play
1947
Mafeking Road and Other Stories
Herman Charles Bosman
South Africa
Stories
 
The Plague
Albert Camus
Algeria
Novel
 
Midaq Alley
Naguib Mahfouz
Egypt
Novel
1948
Cry, the Beloved Country
Alan Paton
South Africa
Novel
1952
The Palm-Wine Drunkard
Amos Tutuola
Nigeria
Novel
1953
The Dark Child
Camara Laye
Guinea
Novel
1956
The Fall
Albert Camus
Algeria
Novella
 
Houseboy
Ferdinand Oyono
Cameroon
Novel
1956–1957
Cairo Trilogy
Naguib Mahfouz
Egypt
Novels
1958
Things Fall Apart
Chinua Achebe
Nigeria
Novel
1959
The Sacrificial Egg
Chinua Achebe
Nigeria
Story
1960
God's Bits of Wood
Ousmane Sembene
Senegal
Novel
1961
Ambiguous Adventure
Kane Cheikh Hamidou
Senegal
Novel
1964
Arrow of God
Chinua Achebe
Nigeria
Novel
1965
The River Between
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
Kenya
Novel
 
The Interpreters
Wole Soyinka
Nigeria
Novel
1966
The Fate of a Cockroach
Tawfiq Al-Hakim
Egypt
Play
 
Season of Migration to the North
Tayeb Salih
Sudan
Novel
1966–1969
Song of Lawino
Okot p'Bitek
Uganda
Long poem
1967
Children of Gebelawi
Naguib Mahfouz
Egypt
Novel
 
Miramar
Naguib Mahfouz
Egypt
Novel
 
A Grain of Wheat
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
Kenya
Novel
1968
Love to the Grave
Haddis Alemayehu
Ethiopia
Novel
 
The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born
Ayi Kwei Armah
Ghana
Novel
1969
The Bacchae of Euripides
Wole Soyinko
Nigeria
Novel
1972
Sizwe Bansi Is Dead
Athol Fugard
South Africa
Play
1973
Looking on Darkness
Andre Bink
South Africa
Novel
 
A Question of Power
Bessie Head
Botswana
Novel
1974
Dusklands
J. M. Coetzee
South Africa
Novel
 
The Conservationist
Nadine Gordimer
South Africa
Novel
1975
Death and the King's Horseman
Wole Soyinka
Nigeria
Play
1977
Our Sister Killjoy
Ama Ata Aidoo
Ghana
Novel
 
In the Heart of the Country
J. M. Coetzee
South Africa
Novel
 
Woman at Point Zero
Nawal El Saadawi
Egypt
Novel
 
Petals of Blood
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
Kenya
Novel
1978
The House of Hunger
Dambudzo Marechera
Zimbabwe
Stories
 
So Long a Letter
Miriam Bâ
Senegal
Novel
1979
A Dry White Season
André Brink
South Africa
Novel
 
Burger's Daughter
Nadine Gordimer
South Africa
Novel
1980
Waiting for the Barbarians
J.M. Coetzee
South Africa
Novel
 
Devil on the Cross
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
Kenya
Novel
1981
July's People
Nadine Gordimer
South Africa
Novel
1982
"Master Harold"...and the Boys
Athol Fugard
South Africa
Play
 
I Will Marry When I Want
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
Kenya
Play
1983
The Life and Times of Michael K
J.M. Coetzee
South Africa
Novel
1984
Another Country
Karel Schoeman
South Africa
Novel
1985
The True Confessions of an Albino Terrorist
Breyten Breytenbach
South Africa
Novel
1986
Matigari
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
Kenya
Novel
 
Kaffir Boy
Mark Mathabane
South Africa
Memoir
 
Ancestral Voices
Etienne van Heerden
South Africa
Novel
1987
You Can't Get Lost in Cape Town
Zoë Wicomb
South Africa
Stories
1988
Nervous Conditions
Tsitsi Dangarembga
Zimbabwe
Novel
1991
The Famished Road
Ben Okri
Nigeria
Novel
1993
Gifts
Nuruddin Farah
Somalia
Novel
1995
Astonishing the Gods
Ben Okri
Nigeria
Novel
1997
Kafka's Curse
Achmat Dangor
South Africa
Novel
1999
Disgrace
J.M. Coetzee
South Africa
Novel
2000
The Heart of Redness
Zakes Mda
South Africa
Novel
2003
Purple Hibiscus
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Nigeria
Novel
 
Elizabeth Costello
J.M. Coetzee
South Africa
Novel
2004
The Good Doctor
Damon Galgut
South Africa
Novel
 
The Cry of Winnie Mandel
Njabulo Ndebele
South Africa
Novel
2006
Half of a Yellow Sun
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Nigeria
Novel
 
Wizard of the Crow
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
Kenya
Novel
2007
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
Ishmael Beah
Sierra Leone
Memoir
2008
Say You're One of Them
Ulem Akpan
Nigeria
Novel
 
Thirteen Hours
Deon Meyer
South Africa
Novel
2009
The Thing Around Your Neck
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Nigeria
Stories
2011
Anatomy of a Disappearance
Hisham Marat
Libya
Novel
2013
Americanah
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Nigeria
Novel
2015–2018
Sands of the Emperor
Mia Couto
Mozambique
Novels
2016
What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky
Lesley Nneka Armah
Nigeria
Stories
2021
The Promise
Damon Galgut
South Africa
Stories

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