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Afrocritik’s 33 Remarkable African Short Stories in 2023

Afrocritik’s 33 Remarkable African Short Stories in 2023

33 Remarkable African Short Stories in 2023

For this year, Afrocritik reviews some of the most remarkable short stories published in 2023.

By Editorial

2023 has been a remarkable year for African Literature. This year, African writers published remarkable novels, essays, stories, and plays. From Mame Bougouma Diene and Woppa Diallo’s Caine Prize win to Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s Chain Gang All Stars, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, African writers graced the podiums of many literary awards both as winners and finalists. In addition, grants and a few mouth-watering book deals were won by Africans, a testament to the prodigious talent that continues to brim in the continent. 

There were also controversies; concerns were raised about the future of literature in the decrepit social environment in much of Africa, ranging from whether or not Nigerian literature is dead to the charge that African writers are too fixated on exploring the sorrows and grief of the continent. Whatever happened in African literature in 2023, it was clear that these conversations, controversies, and literary productions more or less kept the literary landscape vibrant. 

African literary magazines, one of the pillars of African literature, published hundreds of short stories this year. It is no secret that the short story form remains one of the forms immensely amenable to the talents of African writers. For this year, therefore, Afrocritik reviews some of the most remarkable short stories published in 2023.

“Dreams of the City” (Isele) – By Nawawi Sani-Deen 

What makes this story so fascinating is its poignant evocation of a city, with its rich variations of life — the busy streets, the stone and cement houses, the markets, and the poor and wealthy neighbourhoods. Throw in nostalgia and longing and you have a story that is affecting in every good way. 

“The Android Dreams of Revolution” (Isele) – By Ani Kayode Somtochukwu 

Written by one of the most remarkable young writers of this generation, this story is a very readable take on the sci-fi genre, dealing with intersectional issues of today ranging from discrimination and lack of representation to oppression and ecological concerns. 

“Montell Fish” (Isele) – By Kina Indongo 

A touching coming-of-age tale of a young woman’s travails through men. As we follow her through her concerns, anxieties, betrayals and mistakes, we are forced to empathise with her and the experiences that make her. 

“Captain, What Does a Bomb Taste Like” (Isele) – By Kanyinsola Olorunnisola  

A young draughtsman visits a middle-aged war veteran to paint his portrait. What follows is a story of enlightenment and self-discovery. What makes this story so gutsy is how its crucial details are revealed in slow-burning nuggets. 

“There’s No Way To Say Sorry When You Aren’t” (Isele) – By Matshediso Radebe 

A story of a young woman’s pregnancy journey; the alarm, the indecisiveness, the little joys. But also, the pain, the tantrums, the mood swings, the uncertainties and the disappointment. In between are man troubles, family, and forgiveness. 

Isele Magazine
Isele Magazine | Isele

“Madam Shaje’s Catering Company”  (Omenana) – By Adelehin Ijasan 

A young boy begins to work at a catering company owned by an unusually tall woman with a big reputation. Strange details and occurrences follow in this terrifying tale. 

“Parody of the Sower” (Omenana) – By Michelle Iruobe 

Perhaps the most fascinating sci-fi story published this year, Iruobe’s story pulsates with strangeness and innovative vision a la Leslie Nneka Arimah. This is a story that yields more, the more it is reread. Surely, its value would be noted by awarding institutions sooner. 

“To Kill a God” (Omenana) – By Hannu Afere 

A story about an African city in the distant future. Meshed in African mythology and Yoruba godheads, AI, and a lot more, this is a wild tale of dominion in a liminal world. 

(Read also: Afrocritik’s 2023 Top 25 African Music Projects

“A Glitch on the Railway Bridge” (Omenana) – By Mseli Ngoma 

This story begins when a train operator suddenly pulls the brake in the middle of a bridge and announces to the passengers that his shift is over and that he is no longer a driver but a passenger. A strange and interesting way to begin one of the best sci-fi stories of the year. 

“A Delicate Dream” (Iskanchi) – By Orji Victor Ebubechukwu 

A searing tale of love and acceptance. Structurally bracing and told in a language that bends to the twists of turns of its subject matter, this is a story that operates on layers upon layers of emotions. 

“A Sacred Place” (Iskanchi) – By Mwanabibi Sikamo 

A short, sweet tale set in rural Zambia and steeped in family intrigue, this story evokes life in a fishing village in sharp dialogue-heavy prose. 

“On 24 Siemens Street(Iskanchi)By Nneamaka Onochie 

An unusual story, unusual in structure and unusual in character. A street that holds secrets within it, 24 Siemens Street is the overweening multifaceted institution whose whimsical rules leave you deflated. 

“Iphupho Le Vezandlebe” (Iskanchi) – By Tshepiso Mabula 

Uncompromisingly elegiac in its tone, this is a story that explores mortality with a keen observation and an awareness of the checkered history of South Africa. Written in lyrical prose filled with elemental symbolism, this is doubtless one of the best stories out this year. 

“The Origin of Trees” (Iskanchi) – By Chimezie Chika 

This traces the story of an ancient civilisation in Igbo land, in relation to an Oji tree which came into being at the beginning of the civilisation and served the people of the area. The tree is cut down by some overzealous Christians, led by the instruction of one of the Christian ministers who claimed the tree was behind the financial and business failures of the people.

Iskanchi
Iskanchi

“Soyinka’s Memory” (The Shallow Tales Review) – By Stephen Embleton 

Another remarkable story published this year. Embleton takes as his subject the scientific mythologising of the figurehead of Soyinka. What makes this story truly notable, however, is the virtuosic control of its language and voice. 

“Deming” (The Shallow Tales Review)By Cynthia Chukwuma 

A gripping story of romantic entanglement across racial divide and its aftermath. Chukwuma surely has that (Joyce Carol) Oates-esque understanding of the nuances between love, infatuation, and the related feelings and situations that bind and separate people in time. 

“How To Be a Man” (Agbowo) – By Divine Inyang 

The story of a boy’s coming of age in a time of loss and despair. In this affecting story, Inyang brings us close to the facets of manhood and why loss, in its different poses, is a constant index of human life and how coming to terms with it makes no difference to our response to it. 

“Providence” (Lolwe) – By Katherine-Tulonga Amakali 

It seems to us that Namibian writers are taking centre stage and this story is a prime example of the talent brimming in the country. This is a story that operates on many levels. The trials of one woman and the trials of a community. It is irreverent and pungent. 

“What They Don’t Tell You (Lolwe) – By Naledi Mashishi 

A beautiful story that distils the nuances between childhood privilege and subtle forms of privation, and shocks of teenage life. More than anything, this story explores the precarity of life for teenage girls in low the sides of South African urban scape, and the often surreal dangers that lurk in unsuspecting places. 

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“Sande” (Lolwe) – By Mercy Munyanya 

The female protagonist in this story charts the cartography of her family, marriage, and how she arrived at her present impasse, the suicidal madness awakened in her by the overbearing grief of her many losses, and the unscrupulous social evils of her country. This is a story that has great emotional currency. 

“Cardamom Coffee” (Efiko) – By Beatrice Lamwaka

A lonely married woman contemplates the sadness of her marriage to a husband who no longer gives her the attention she craves. She contemplates her past life, the present, and the possibility of leaving and crawls back into her present circumstances.

“The Girl”  (Efiko) – By Rumbi Munochiveyi 

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The story details the life of people in Harare suburbs and the scandal which rocks the life of one of the young families and demystifies the facade with which they are known.

“The Mountain of Goodness” (Efiko)By Lola Opatayo 

A young student struggles with the predictions from a prophet on the mountain her mother often takes her to for prayer, a prophet complicit in manipulating his members. She is, however, unable to do much because of his constituted authority. The story speaks to the fraud often perpetuated in the guise of Christianity in Nigeria.

“Jacob’s Technicolor Taxi” (Doek!) – By Kay-Leigh De Sousa 

A protagonist with a tendency to always align his actions with his mother’s sentiments goes to Namibia to study medicine. He then encounters a life-changing incident in Jacob’s taxi.

“The Seasons Of Beatrice And Katherine(Doek!) – By Emmerita Ambata

This story explores the convergent and divergent paths of two sisters, Beatrice and Katherine. It attempts to deal with the dichotomy between liking and loving a sibling, and how human emotions like envy and admiration play a part in the trajectory of sibling relationships.

“The Hermit” (Doek!)By Kojo Baffoe

This story deals with the thin line between solitude and loneliness. A man marries a woman he meets at a house party in Johannesburg. She fills a vacuum in his life and they get married and have children, only for their bliss to be cut short by a tragedy, as highs lead to solitude and loneliness.

Doek! - A literary magazine from Namibia
Doek! | X (Twitter)

“Origami” (Fiery Scribe Review) – By Sunmisola Odusola 

A philosophical story which details a conversation between the protagonist and a girl who opens his mind to a new world. It details their conversations and how their world intertwines. This story is remarkable for its poetry and philosophical musings.

“The Backyard” (Afritondo Magazine) – By Huwa Okoyomoh 

This is a story of two friend’s friendship and loss which puts their lives into perspective. These friends once found excitement in mischief, stealing fruits from the backyard of an elderly man. In the absence of one, the other remembers the good time amidst the sadness of not having her friend around. 

“Makoko (Kalahari Review) – By Bibiana Ossai 

In this story, the protagonist, while on an outing with her mother, recalls traumatic memories from her childhood – of her mother being abused by her father. It is a story which combines a stark image of poverty, abuse, and trauma. It has a rhythm of the past bearing on the future, and is written in crisp prose of exacting detail and picturesque movements.

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“Nurse the Children!” (Uncharted Magazine) – By Frances Ogamba 

A dystopian story of an estate where children mysteriously go missing. The story deals with the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the children and how their worried parents attempt to combat this problem.

“The Road (Shortlisted for the Gerald Kraak Prize) – By Olaposi Halim 

This story details how the protagonist met his close friends, their life afterwards, and how one of them dies mysteriously. It is written in moving prose and great detail.

“When God is a Woman(Shortlisted for the Gerald Kraak Prize)By Obinna Obioma 

A boy is scandalised after being caught kissing another boy in school. He is flogged mercilessly and asked to come to the school with his parents to receive his official punishment. He shows up with two women as his parents and the school principal is forced to deal with an unexpected surprise.

“The Broken Window” (The Kenyon Review)By NK Iguh 

A story about a mother and daughter who go out to the market. The story takes a kaleidoscopic view through their shopping process, and with their conversations and interactions with the vendors, they reflect on their lives, especially on the influence of the mother on the life of her daughter from childhood – one that has continued into adulthood.

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