West African Literature

Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia may be splashed all over the news as of late due to the current outbreak of Ebola (the worst since 1976)—but let’s, for a moment, take a different focus on these countries.

Boasting rich literary traditions, with numerous authors contributing to various genres throughout the years, you will discover that the themes of culture, tradition, identity and society all play an important part in the works of these West African writers.

Below are a few notable authors and their works:


Flag of Liberia

Edward Wilmot Blyden was the most renowned Liberian author in the 19th century. An educator, diplomat and writer, Blyden was considered to be one of the early fathers of Pan Africanism (an ideology and movement that encourages the solidarity of Africans worldwide) along with W.E.B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvy.

Christianity, Island and the Negro Race (1887), revolves around the idea that practicing Islam is more fulfilling for Africans than Christianity.

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Bai T. Moore was a poet, novelist, essayist and folklorist. He is best known for his novel, Murder in the Cassava Patch (1968). Based on a true story—about the relationship between Gortokai, a young Liberian man, and Tene, the girl he hopes to marry—this novel is regarded as Liberia’s best-known novel and is required reading for every Liberian high school student.

Sierra Leone

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Karamoh Kabba is an author, writer, novelist and journalist. Many of his works were based on Sierra Leone civil war, including A Mother’s Saga: An Account of the Rebel War in Sierra Leone (2002). Follow the story of a single mother who braves bloody diamond fields and machete-swinging rebels in order to protect her family.

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Eustace Palmer is an author and literary critic. Winner of the African Literature Association’s Distinguished Member award, Palmer has many published books including A Hanging is Announced, Canfira’s Travels, and A Tale of Three Women.


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Thierno Saïdou Diallo is a novelist and iochemist. He has written eight books and was awarded the 2008 prix Renaudot—a French literary prize that is awarded to an outstanding original novel—for The King of Kahel (2008). Loosely based on the life of Olivier de Sanderval, a man who journeyed to Guinea to build an empire by conquering the region Fouta Djallon.

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Camara Laye is best known for his novel, The African Child (1954). One of the earliest major works in Francophone African literature, breeze through a beautiful account of Laye’s boyhood experiences and learn about the customs and formalities of an African tribe.

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We hope you enjoyed our list! Have you read any of these novels, and if so, what did you think?

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