Tintin lives on – in Ghana

Tintin in America, The broken earRecently I’ve been buying quite a few Tintin books – mainly I am prepared to admit because I found that Kingdom Books and Stationery, a local store associated more with the latter than the former seems to have got a stock of them which are truly selling at a bargain price! And let’s face it, though I have been rationing my visits, I just can’t resist.

Over the years I’ve had many different editions of Tintin books, and I am not sure where they all are now.  Some fell apart from overuse, others got lent out, others were borrowed and never returned.

I certainly remember reading some in French, and maybe even as they were being issued in serialized form – or is this just a fake memory? It is possible, as I did live in Belgium  when I was young, but I really can’t be sure, and there isn’t anyone I can ask to confirm or deny.

I am fairly certain that we had lots of the Tintin books – in English – which I read, and laughed at, as did my sister, and later my brother, whose main reading for many years, was anything in comic form! We loved Captain Haddock’s swear words – which sounded horrible, but were very funny because of their alliteration – even in a translation.

When I first started working at the Ghana Library Board in the Ashanti Regional Library (Kumasi) in late 1980, I was thrilled to see that there were Tintin books in the children’s section – to which I had been assigned! And amazed at just how popular they were – with the children of all ages, and their parents, who practically begged to be allowed to borrow them. I suppose it is the appeal of the colour, the style, the stories, the fact that the good guys usually win, and the bad ones do get defeated which gave them such a widespread appeal. Even those whose level of English wasn’t so great would sit entranced looking at the pictures, and explaining to others what was going on.

Surprisingly the Tintin series aren’t that well known in the US. Recently I asked a shop assistant in one of the big chains and he hadn’t heard of them; another had but wasn’t aware that Stephen Spielberg’s film, The adventures of Tintin was coming out just before Christmas. But in the way of marketing to US audiences, I am sure that movie tie-in books will soon be hitting the shelves.

In the meantime, I will continue to add to my current collection, and re-read these books which I first enjoyed more than fifty years ago!  And chuckle as I do so.

And of course take a look at one of the Tintin fan websites, and follow a Tintin blogger.

Ghanaian connections to the Man Booker 2011 longlist

The Man Booker longlist for 2011 has just been announced; thanks to my fellow blogger, Nana Fredua Agyeman of Imagenations for alerting me to this.

No Africans on the list, which is sad, BUT there are Ghanaian connections to two of the novels, which is unusual, to put it mildly.

Stephen Kelman’s Pigeon English, is a story about eleven year old Harrison Opoku, who is living with his mother and sister in an inner city housing estate.  And yes, Harrison is a Ghanaian, even if the story is set in the UK…

The other Ghana connection is with Canadian author Esi Edugyan, whose parents were immigrants from Ghana.  Although her longlisted book, Half blood blues, is a story of Germany, of music and of betrayal, it is interesting to note that her first book, The second life of Samuel Tyne, is a gothic story focussed on the family of an emigrant from – guess where?  Ghana of course.

Kelman’s book was already on one of my wish lists, and I am happy to say that I have added both of Edugyan’s novels.

So not exactly Ghanaian authors living and working in Ghana, but the connections to this country do keep coming up…  Long let them do so!

Two book launches at Goethe Institut, Accra

Maybe it is just that I am more able to attend events, but I definitely feel that there has been quite a bit going on in the books scene here in Accra over the last month or so.

I meant to attend Alba Sumprim‘s launch of her book, A place of beautiful nonsense, at the beginning of July at the Goethe Institut but unfortunately couldn’t due to having visitors.  But I enjoyed her first book, The imported Ghanaian, as well as her columns from the Daily Despatch, one of the local newspapers here in Accra.  So of course, I looked forward to seeing what she would say and draw for her new book.  I did find a copy – not autographed though – in Silverbird bookshop, and it is now sitting on my TBR shelf.  Looks good for dipping into.

This past week I was again at the Goethe Institut, for another programme organized by the Writers Project of Ghana, this time with friend and fellow blogger, Fiona Leonard.  As those who follow her blog know, Fiona finally published her novel, The chicken thief, which has been available on Amazon in Kindle format for a while.  But for those of us here in Ghana, the launch reading finally came off with lots of physical copies of the book available for sale.  And naturally I did buy one, and of course, did get it autographed!  Readings definitely do serve to wet one’s desire to read, I have noticed!

Another addition to the TBR shelves.  I just wish I could make more time to read, read, and do more reading!

2011 Caine Prize won by NoViolet Bulawayo

I am sure this will not be real news to many of those who follow this blog, but on Monday 11 July in the evening, the winner of the 2011 Caine Prize for African Writing was announced.  She is NoViolet Bulawayo, and her short story is “Hitting Budapest”.  Congratulations to the winner!

And for those who still haven’t read the shortlisted stories, they are available on the Caine Prize website.

For more information see Africa Book Club and Books Live.

If you want your short stories in hard copy form, see The Caine Prize for African Writing 2011, which is available from New Internationalist or other retailers.

Some comments on holiday reading

Earlier this year I travelled outside Ghana, and considered myself quite careful in my choice of accompanying reading material: two books, plus a Kindle, were what I carried with me. I figured that I wasn’t likely to be doing too much reading, because of what was going to happen to my eyes, but at least there would be something to read on the plane trips and at other times.

So what did I chose? The first was an Accra Book Club choice: Geraldine Brooks, People of the book, which I thought I should read first since I was the one who suggested it in the first place, and I had chosen to “lead” or “facilitate” the discussion on this novel in June. Normally such a book would have taken me a week or less to read, but dealing with adjustments in eyes and reading glasses meant it took longer.

The second book was Farida Bedwei’s semi-autobiographical novel, Definition of a miracle, which I had ordered through Amazon, after hearing it was published but not having seen any copies here in Ghana. Yet another case of jumping the gun, as of course it is now available here in Accra! Oh well, no harm done. The author should benefit – hopefully. An additional reason for reading this book was that Bedwei’s story was on a list for consideration as an Ashesi-wide read. I admit I enjoyed it, and found her portrayal of a girl with a handicap amusing and touching. Her handicaps were accepted as part of her life, yet the main character did lots of reading, and had friends.

I was very glad I took my Kindle. I had bought it in 2010, and had downloaded a few items onto it, but hadn’t really, really used it. I am not sure why, but I suspect partly because I had/have so many physical books to read, that I didn’t really feel the need. But somehow for travelling having the Kindle was very appropriate.

And because my eyes were in transition, I really loved being able to increase the font size to compensate for my uneven eyes! And then to change it to whatever felt comfortable to me! The other great thing was being able to download books directly to the Kindle without the intermediary of my laptop. In Ghana I usually end up downloading books to my pc, and then push them to the Kindle – none of which is particularly arduous, I do admit!

Am I a total convert to e-reading?  No.  Am I a fan?  Definitely.   Will I continue to read electronically and in physical formats?  Oh yes.

Resuming posting

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I haven’t posted for some time, and perhaps I should explain the reasons why in more detail.

To begin with I had to have some surgery done on both of my eyes, which meant that reading was somewhat limited for much of April and May. And let me tell you, it was hard not to read so much! Plus I wasn’t physically in Accra, though I suppose I could have written about what else I was doing? And finally a close person in my life passed away, so lately I have been pre-occupied with burial and funeral arrangements, and other related matters.

Routines are however reasserting themselves, and I really do want to resume posting more often, just as I go back to reading – either in print, on screen or on my Kindle – a bit more regularly. I will also try to attend more events that have a literary slant to them – including readings, book clubs and book launches, and as I attend, I hope to post my reactions

And of course work too is about to get very, very busy, as Ashesi University College is about to move from rented premises in three different compounds in Labone to its permanent site in Berekuso, on the old Aburi road.