African Writing’s Oxford Reading Group

Tamara Moellenberg

As a base for a reading group devoted to “New African Writing”, Oxford might seem slightly unsuitable. Founded many centuries ago by men for whom “the language question” meant Latin or Greek, Oxford University often proves reluctant to adopt anything new, resistance to change in each crevice of its crumbling college walls. Yet the dreaming spires of Brasenose College, Oxford recently played host to handful of intrepid minds eager to explore new landscapes of the literary in the first meeting of the “New African Writing Reading Group”. Together we opened a text far younger while, many would argue, richer in taste than the college wines in the cellar below us: Irene Sabatini’s The Boy Next Door, winner of the 2010 Orange Award for New Writers. In our journey together through Sabatini’s story, through the vibrant cosmopolitan markets of Harare in the 1980s, past Bulawayo’s graceful architecture serene in the midst of national transition, around political and economic roadblocks erected by Mugabe’s ZANU-PF, we arrived at insights both unexpected and profound, the rewards of reading en route with friends.

Still, as we embark on new forays in the following weeks, it will not be without the road map of African Writing to guide us. The interviews, essays, excerpts, and reviews included in your magazine have been, and will continue to be, a source of direction in what we read and of encouragement by like efforts to seek the best of new writing from Africa. The inclusive, polychrome, fresh and forward-thinking tone of your magazine has allowed our small circle of readers, huddled within a dank Oxford college, to imagine ourselves warmed by larger community of writers, readers, professionals and scholars united by a passion for the continent and its literature. Thank you for an inspiring publication, rendered all the dearer to us bibliophiles by its recent appearance in print. It is with eager anticipation that we await your next issue.

Yours,

Miss Tamara Moellenberg
Spokesperson for the “New African Writing Reading Group”
University of Oxford, U.K.
E-mail: tamara.moellenberg@bnc.ox.ac.uk