An African Story – Call for Authors and Translators

13 Sep 2016

Press release from Elvis Jarrs:

Since 2009, people from all over the world have seen and discussed Chimamanda Ngozi’s speech about the danger of a single story. As Ngozi says, ending her speech: “Stories matter. Many stories matter.” An African story is a literature project that wants to show the chance of a single story – if it’s written and read out by various hands and tongues, in as many languages as possible. We want to unite authors from all over Africa to let them write a story together. Every author writes three pages in his mother tongue to continue the plot. Below you can find a detailed explanation of the concept.


Talking about Africa, it seems that many people stick to a few couple of connotations, without considering the diversity of 55 different countries. Falsely thinking of a homogenous cultural environment, people often forget about the wide-range cultural spectrum Africa has to offer. But is it actually possible to portray a continent with all of its differences beyond the typical stereotypes and generalizations, at least fragmentary?

Even the best journalists will never be able to get authentic impressions of a place which aren’t influenced by their own presence – because of their own bodies. Michel Foucault once said about his body, his head in particular: “Through this bars I have to speak, see and be seen.” By saying this, Foucault expresses what communication is all about: Your environment is always influenced by your own presence and its subjective perception. It´s important to keep in mind that this process is mutual, humans can´t get rid of their personal morals, ethics or aesthetic sense. People judge and interpret. Always.

Of course it´s possible to get a less influenced access to the inner workings of a culture through literature, not having the opportunity to influence the author as an anonymous reader. But by reading a book, you´re just seeing through one persons eyes.

The idea

Our idea sounds simple. It´s inspired by an old game children like to play during lessons in classroom. A pupil begins to write a sentence on a piece of paper and gives it to his classmate. This sentence is the beginning of a story the next classmates have to continue by writing a sentence themselves. At the end of the lesson they might have a single story written sentence by sentence by all children in the room.

We want to connect with various authors from all over the African continent and make them write a story together. Every author writes three pages of this book in his mother tongue. We aren´t defining any topic and won´t intervene into the creative process in any manner.

The first author who takes part in our project will write the first three pages of the first chapter. The second author will continue the story, based on the first three pages, writing three more.


The outcome of the project will be the published novel with all of its different languages, written by authors from all over Africa, with a plot nobody can predict yet. It might be an attempt to portray Africa with all its diversity and controversy, just fragmentary but not influenced by the own point of view. Maybe it will prove that attempts like these are doomed to failure. In the best case the book benefits from the multifacetedness and the harmony or disharmony of a great variety of languages and authors with their different styles of writing.

Further on we´ll make a film when the book is written, visiting the authors and filming them in a self selected environment while they´re reading out their pages in their mother tongue.

If you´re an African author or translator and interested in participating in An African story, please contact us! The sooner an authors tells us that they want to participate, the earlier he or she can begin to write his or her three pages. As you can read in the concept, there can´t be two authors writing at the same time.


Elvis Jarrs, project leader