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The 88 Greatest Works of African Literature

This selection of literature from Africa is based on the continuing research carried out for The Greatest Literature of All Time list and is additionally informed by the views of local readers, writers, critics and scholars.

It encompasses the greatest works of African authors in all forms, genres, cultures and periods.

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

The works of more than eighty countries and cultures—ancient, pre-colonial, colonial and contemorary—have had to be reconsidered.

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 evolves.

Latest update: January 25, 2024

c.1990 BCE
missing graphic
"The Shipwrecked Sailor"
Egypt, story
c.1875 BCE
Egypt, story
 
missing graphic
"The Eloquent Peasant"
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, novel
397–400
Confessions
Augustine of Hippo
Numidia, memoir
c.1322
The Glory of the Kings
Anonymous
Ethiopia, novel
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, story collection
 
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, novel series
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, story collection
 
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, story collection
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, story collection
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, novel series
2016
What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky
Lesley Nneka Armah
Nigeria, story collection
2021
The Promise
Damon Galgut
South Africa, story collection

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