Stephanie Newell is a professor of English at the University of Sussex, UK, and the author of West African Literature: Ways of Reading, Literary Culture in Colonial Ghana, and Ghanaian Popular Fiction: How to Play the Game of Life.
Between the 1880s and the 1940s, the region known as British West Africa became a dynamic zone of literary creativity and textual experimentation. African-owned newspapers offered local writers numerous opportunities to contribute material for publication, and editors repeatedly defined the press as a vehicle to host public debates rather than simply as an organ to disseminate news or editorial ideology.
Between 1905 and 1939 a conspicuously tall white man with a shock of red hair, dressed in a silk shirt and white linen trousers, could be seen on the streets of Onitsha, in Eastern Nigeria. How was it possible for an unconventional, boy-loving Englishman to gain a social status among the local populace enjoyed by few other Europeans in colonial West Africa?
This is a study of the ‘unofficial’ side of African fiction—the largely undocumented writing, publishing, and reading of pamphlets and paperbacks—which exists outside the grid of mass production. Stephanie Newell examines the popular fiction of Ghana produced since the 1930s, analyzing the distinctive ways in which narrative forms are borrowed and regenerated by authors and readers.