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Thursday, 21 February, 2002, 19:10 GMT
Jury decide on Africa's best books
Wole Soyinka, Nigerian writer
Soyinka's The Years of Childhood was in the top dozen
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By Kwaku Sakyi-Addo
BBC reporter in Accra

A panel of 16 judges from Africa and beyond has chosen the best 100 African books of the 20th Century.

The exercise which was concluded with a presentation ceremony in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, was organised by the Zimbabwean International Book Fair.

Among the top 12
Things Fall Apart - Nigerian Chinua Achebe
The Years of Childhood - Nigerian Wole Soyinka
A Grain of Wheat - Kenyan Ngugi wa Thiongo
Oeuvre Poetique - late Senegalese president Leopold Cedar Senghor
Sosu's Call - Ghanaian Meshak Asare
The African origin of civilisation - Senegalese Cheick Anta Diop
The Cairo Trilogy - Egyptian Naguib Mahfouz
Nervous Conditions - Zimbabwean Tsitsi Dangarembga

The jury spent days in rigorous debate and argument to shortlist 500 nominations out of an original list of 1,500 works proposed from sources around the world.

Then after choosing the best 100, they picked the best 12 books.

But this final decision was unanimous, according to its chairman Professor Njabulo Ndebele, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town.

Books categories

The books which were considered were in three categories. Books for children, non-fiction and creative writing.

Most books were written in English, but a dozen of them were in African languages, including South Africa's IsiXhosa and Afrikaans, Kenya's Kikuyu, Nigeria's Yoruba and East Africa's Swahili.

No boundaries

According to Professor Ndebele, some of the qualities the jury looked for in each publication were popularity, sales, public influence, as well as the extent to which they provided fresh insight and broke boundaries.

The late Senegalese President Leopold Cedar Senghor
Senghor was a respected poet

The idea of a list of Africa's 100 best books was the brainchild of the Kenyan author Professor Ali Mazrui.

The organisers and the panel believe that the announcement of the list will help to bolster writing and publishing by Africans for reading and learning by the world.

See also:

24 Jul 01 | Africa
Nigerian wins book award
13 Dec 00 | Africa
Africa's 'greatest explorer'
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