African literature is better off without another Nobel?

So says Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani in the Times:

A Nigerian publisher once told me that of the manuscripts she reads from aspiring writers, half echo Chinua Achebe and half try to adopt Wole Soyinka’s style. Mr. Achebe and Mr. Soyinka, who won the continent’s first Nobel in literature in 1986, are arguably the most celebrated black African writers, especially in terms of Western accolades. But their dominance causes problems in a region where the common attitude is, “If it already works, why bother to improve on it?”

…An Ngugi Nobel would have resulted in the new generation of aspiring writers dreaming of nothing higher than being hailed as “the next Ngugi.”

Perhaps true, but this is possibly better than 90% of American writers trying to be the next Dan Brown.

On the subject of new African literature, fiction that (to my ear) sounds little like Achebe or Soyinka or Ngugi:

  • I usually love Dinaw Mengistu’s work, but found the new novel flacid and full of characters who loathed themselves more than I did them.
  • I wanted to like An Elegy for Easterly, but the stories seemed to try to hard for political potence and tender depictions of modern life in Zimbabwe.
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Nduchie does this much better with a book of short stories on Nigeria and Nigerians. Easily one of the most consistently excellent collections I’ve read in some time.