You’re Not a Country, Africa by Pius Adesanmi

It’s been such a crazy year thus far, that I completely missed the release of You’re Not a Country, Africa. I’ve been looking forward to this book since the manuscript won the non-fiction category of  the 2010  Penguin Prize for African Writing.

The publisher, Penguin SA, says:

“In this groundbreaking collection of essays, Pius Adesanmi tries to unravel what it is that Africa means to him as an African, and by extension to all those who inhabit this continent of extremes. This is a question that exercised some of the continent’s finest minds in the 20th century, but which pan-Africanism, Negritude, nationalism, decolonisation and all the other projects through which Africans sought to restore their humanity ultimately failed to answer. Criss-crossing the continent, Pius Adesanmi engages with the enigma that is Africa in an attempt to make meaning of this question for all 21st-century Africans.”

“Nigerian born Pius Adesanmi is an acclaimed literary and cultural critic. He currently resides in Ottawa, Canada, where he teaches literature and African studies at Carleton University. He is one of Nigeria’s major intellectuals and writes two weekly columns for the influential Sahara Reporters and NEXT newspaper. His first book, The Wayfarer and Other Poems, won the Association of Nigerian Authors’ Poetry Prize in 2001.”

The Witness reviews the book in Insights from an insider and outsider.

The title is from the last stanza of Abioseh Nicol’s poem The Meaning of Africa:

You are not a country, Africa,
You are a concept,
Fashioned in our minds, each to each,
To hide our separate fears,
To dream our separate dreams.

Taking on the question of what Africa means to us is some task.  Certainly, the intellectual and erudite  Adesanmi’s attempt will make for interesting reading.

The book is available from Penguin SA.  It is also sold at

My thanks to African Literature and News  for alerting me to the book’s release.


  1. Sounds interesting, and certainly an eye-catching title, addressing Africa in the second person. Thanks for linking to the Witness review, which gives a good idea of the book. Interesting that they describe it as an advantage for him to be both an insider and an outsider – I’d have thought that just being an insider would be better, because as much as you visit, you’re always a bit distant when you live abroad (I was away from England for 6 years and missed a whole lot of things). Still, I suppose that being an outsider does give you more perspective as well. I tend to enjoy personal, essay-type nonfiction books, so I’ll look out for this one.


    • I agree with you. I like most of the stuff (that’s available on the net) that Pius Adesanmi has written. I think his particular advantage comes from his critical mind. He stated somewhere that what he owes Africa is a lot of intellectual thinking. Good thing that he is writing also. Some of our intellectuals just talk and write very little indeed.


  2. This book sounds remotely romantic to me. Romantic in the sense of African writers pouring adoration on the continent. I should read it too and thanks for mentioning Abioseh Nicol too. I’m reviewing his poem for my blog next.


    • I’ve read a lot of Pius Adesanmi’s stuff that is available in the internet and I’d say that his views are far from romantic. Say your lovely piece on Nicol. Thanks.


  3. This is on my wish list and has been since you first posted about it. I’ve had my fingers crossed for an Amazon Kindle edition so I could snap it up right away. As it is it looks like I’ll have to place an order! For other Canadians, it is also available at Chapters (online).


  4. Is it weird that when I read the title to this one, I was like, “Well, no, Africa isn’t a country… it’s a continent!”? Maybe Sarah Palin needs to read this one?


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