Togo


Kulusuk, Greenland
Photo of Kulusuk, Greenland, by nick_russill used under a Creative Commons license.

Tété-Michel Kpomassie, An African in Greenland (NYRB, 2001).
As a teenager in Togo in the 1950s, Kpomassie was sent to a local python cult to help him recover from near-fatal injuries suffered in a fall. Kpomassie found another cure: he came across a book about Greenland and became obsessed with the idea of voyaging there. Over several years, he made his way to France and then finally found passage to Greenland. When he arrived, he was a minor celebrity, the first African or black person most of the natives had seen. He then traveled up the west coast, though he turned around before he reached his goal of Thule in the north. Kpomassie has a fantastic tale to tell, and he is a lucid observer of the customs of the many Greenlanders who took him into their homes.

A. Alvarez’s introduction to the NYRB edition is available here (.pdf). Listen to Kpomassie’s appearance on The Leonard Lopate Show on WNYC in 2003. John Derbyshire writes about the book in The New Criterion. Matt Steinglass recommends it in his piece on Togo for Salon’s Literary Guide to the World.

Buy it at Amazon.com.

Eyebrow stall, Cotonou market
Photo from a Cotonou market by Moi of Ra used under a Creative Commons license.

Robert Wilson, Instruments of Darkness (Harvest, 2002).
Noir in Africa. Bruce Medway is a British expat in Cotonou, Benin, West Africa. He finds work as fixer, a private detective. The book opens with Medway at Cotonou Port, waiting to collect from one Madame Severnou for 7000 tons of Thai rice on a rusting Japanese cargo ship. Medway is then asked to search for another expat, and things develop from there. Wilson was a trader in West Africa before becoming a full-time writer, so this is his turf.

Wilson’s first novel didn’t leave a large web footprint, but Eugene Aubrey Stratton reviewed it.

Buy this book at Amazon.com.