4 Books Published by Manu Herbstein on Our Site — Book Cover Mosaic
Manu Herbstein (Jan 10, 2017)
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“Karatu, farkonka madaci, karshenka zuma.” (Study is difficult but the rewards are great.) Akosua Annan is a confident and fiercely intelligent student at a posh girls’ school in Cape Coast, Ghana. There she comes under the influence of a charismatic feminist teacher. Osman Said’s background is very different. Upon the death of his parents, a police sergeant and an unschooled market trader, immigrants to Accra from the North, he is adopted by a retired school teacher, Hajia Zainab. After a spell as an apprentice in an auto workshop, he returns to school. There, finding the teaching inadequate, he becomes an avid reader and educates himself. Akosua and Osman are thrown together by chance in the course of a school visit to the slave dungeon at Cape Coast Castle. Their paths cross again as finalists in the national school debating competition where the subject is “The problem of poverty in Ghana is insoluble.” They meet for the third time as students at the University of Ghana and as we leave them, it looks as if their relationship might develop into something permanent. “This fascinating novel tells the story of how these two young people from these disparate backgrounds are brought together as if by an unseen hand, in a process that teaches us about our history, our common humanity despite ethnic differences, the need to pursue our ambitions, the strength of human sexuality and the need for self-discipline, and, above all, the power of love.” The Judges, Burt Award for African Literature, 2011.
Manu Herbstein (Dec 27, 2016)
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2050. The global village has disintegrated. The Third World War, ending in a stalemate, has left the planet split between two hostile powers, each with a captive sphere of influence. The Atlantic Ocean has become an American sea. West Africa is a desert of failed states and anarchy, dotted with mines and oil rigs, stockaded and armed by U. S. corporations. From their island outpost of S. Thomas, the Americans dispatch expeditions of geologists and mining engineers into the dangerous interior of the Dark Continent to search for untapped mineral resources. One such expedition has gone missing. Captain Crash Ferguson of the Marine Corps, the son of African parents, is sent to find it; but, unknown to his handlers, he has another mission.
Manu Herbstein (Oct 19, 2016)
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President Michelle, or Ten Days that Shook the World: A subversive political fantasy Manu Herbstein’s short tale is a political logbook of the days following Michelle Obama’s inauguration as the first female president of the United States. Having been catapulted to the presidential post by a zealous electorate in search of stability and reassurance following the untimely death of President Obama, the mourning Mrs. Obama arrived without campaigning, owing no favors, and free to serve the interests of the people. Quite unexpectedly, she proceeds over the next several days to unveil an agenda that is radically different from that of her late husband. Her surprising policies have politicians cringing and the public raving with delight. The narrator is a sought-after author charged with covering the president’s first days in office. He steps us through President Michelle’s reasoned speeches and proposals. She writes bills for Congress to ponder and she deftly spells out a program for change. For instance, as one of her first acts she promises to sign the global treaty placing the US under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. She also pledges to immediately end the wars and to close the US bases around the world. Through careful worded reasoning, she argues for moral leadership. Her populist policies and philosophy earn her both acclaim by the world’s peoples and also turbulence in the financial markets. Aside from the author’s creating the untimely death of a sitting president (a weighty and touchy ploy to use), the fictional president Michelle was a creative device for articulating a different approach to world leadership, clearly the motive of the work. Herbstein unfolds his world view craftily as the mysterious new president unpeels her agenda in reasoned bits at a time. Not presuming to be a novel with developed characters, relationships or interactions, only oblique references to her duties as widow, mother, and holder of presidential power humanize the character. The author relies heavily on the reader’s familiarity with the historic Michelle Obama to round out her personality. It is easy to see that there is rich ground left to cover should he one day extend this work to a novel or screenplay. This reader enjoyed the short story. Sections of it had me well up in tears as I pondered how far we are from the ideals the book contemplates. This e-book captures the energy and expectations of a class of people around the world who once suspected that President Obama might himself have been the harbinger of a radically revolutionary type of leadership. In their disappointment, this fictionalized President Michelle Obama may help preserve some sense of hope in a politically bleak (and certainly non-revolutionary) performance by the historic president Obama. This is a review by Kweku of the original Kindle edition of the story. The story was written in late 2009 and first published on May 30, 2011.
Manu Herbstein (May 03, 2016)
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Sargrenti is the name by which Major General Sir Garnet Wolseley, KCMG (1833 – 1913) is still known in the West African state of Ghana. Kofi Gyan, the 15-year old boy who spits in Sargrenti’s eye, is the nephew of the chief of Elmina, a town on the Atlantic coast of Ghana. On Christmas Day, 1871, Kofi’s godfather gives him a diary as a Christmas present and charges him with the task of keeping a personal record of the momentous events through which they are living. This novel is a transcription of Kofi’s diary. Elmina town has a long-standing relationship with the Castelo de São Jorge da Mina, known today as Elmina Castle, built by the Portuguese in 1482 and captured from them by the Dutch in 1637. In April, 1872, the Dutch hand over the unprofitable castle to the British. The people of Elmina have not been consulted and resist the change. On June 13, 1873 British forces punish them by bombarding the town and destroying it. (It has never been rebuilt. The flat open ground where it once stood serves as a constant reminder of the savage power of Imperial Britain.) After the destruction of Elmina, Kofi moves to his mother’s family home in nearby Cape Coast, seat of the British colonial government, where Sargrenti is preparing to march inland and attack the independent Asante state. There Melton Prior, war artist of the London weekly news magazine, The Illustrated London News, offers Kofi a job as his assistant. This gives the lad an opportunity to observe at close quarters not only Prior but also the other war correspondents, Henry Morton Stanley and G. A. Henty. Kofi witnesses and experiences the trauma of a brutal war, a run-up to the formal colonialism which would be realized ten years later at the 1885 Berlin conference, where European powers drew lines on the map of Africa, dividing the territory up amongst themselves. On February 6, 1874, Sargrenti’s troops loot the palace of the Asante king, Kofi Karikari, and then blow up the stone building and set the city of Kumase on fire, razing it to the ground. Kofi’s story culminates in his angry response to the British auction of their loot in Cape Coast Castle. The loot includes the solid gold mask shown on the front cover of the novel. That mask continues to reside in the Wallace Collection in London. The invasion of Asante met with the enthusiastic approval of the British public, which elevated Wolseley to the status of a national hero. All the war correspondents and several military officers hastened to cash in on public sentiment by publishing books telling the story of their victory. In all of these, without exception, the coastal Fante feature as feckless and cowardly and the Asante as ruthless savages. The Boy who Spat in Sargrenti’s Eye tells the story of these momentous events for the first time from an African point of view. It is told with irony and with occasional flashes of humor. The novel is illustrated with scans of seventy engravings first published in The Illustrated London News. This book won a Burt Award for African Literature which included the donation by the Ghana Book Trust of 3000 copies to school libraries in Ghana. In 2016, at the annual conference of the African Literature Association held in Atlanta, GA, it received the ALA’s Creative Book of the Year Award. Prof. Kwesi Kwaa Prah writes:“The Boy who Spat in Sargrenti’s War takes history out of the recesses of memory and obscurity, and expresses it in vivid and dazzling light.” The Boy who Spat in Sargrenti’s Eye is a story for adults of all ages, both young adults and those no longer so young.