10 Young African Writers You Should Know

Phaswane Mpe and Kabelo “Sello” Duiker

So this is actually a list of eleven authors. You caught us cheating, didn’t you? Well, this is only because we couldn’t decide between two writers who both had their careers cut short by tragedy.

Mpe was the brazen author of Welcome to Our Hillbrow, which is set the crime-ridden neighborhood in Johannesburg where he once lived. The New York Times writes, “Everything is there: the shattered dreams of youth, sexuality and its unpredictable costs, AIDS, xenophobia, suicide, the omnipotent violence that often cuts short the promise of young people’s lives, and the Africanist understanding of the life continuum that does not end with death but flows on into an ancestral realm.” Mpe died in December 2004, of an unknown illness that many believe was AIDS.

Duiker was a young, promising South African novelist and author of Thirteen Cents, which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize back in 2001. His second novel, The Quiet Violence Of Dreams, was the winner of the 2002 Herman Charles Bosman Prize. Much of the novel revolves around a gay massage parlor in apartheid-era South Africa, although the novel is really about how young South Africans adopt global culture and make it their own, while worrying that this act will be viewed as selling out. The protagonist asks, “Isn’t sticking to your own culture ruthlessly a kind of stagnation, a type of incest?” Yet feels like an Uncle Tom all the same. Duiker committed suicide a month after Mpe, in January 2005.