Benjamin Kwakye

Born in Accra, Ghana, Benjamin Kwakye attended the Presbyterian Secondary School in Ghana, and Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School in the US.

He has been described by one of Africa’s leading literary scholars as arguably the most important Ghanaian novelist since Ayi Kwei Armah and continuing to reinforce his claim to being incontestably in the front rank of African writers. Kirkus Review writes of Scrolls of the Living Night: “Kwakye’s imaginative tale takes place in Ghana but could just as easily be set in the United States or  ...See more >


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"A darkly humorous modern take on the fleeting triumph of money, corruption, deceit, and evil"

Kirkus Reviews

BOOKS REVIEWED BY KIRKUS:

FICTION & LITERATURE
ISBN: 978-0-9679511-1-9
Page count: 428pp

In this epic poem, Kwakye (The Executioner's Confession, 2015, etc.) recounts the lives of two Ghanaian twins—one good, one evil—from birth to death.

These are no ordinary twins—they don’t share the same parents, and upon his birth, Kobi the Magician, stands up, cuts his umbilical cord, and informs his mother that he’s self-sufficient and needs her only for spiritual support. Three attending midwives prophesy that he’s destined for greatness and try to introduce him to his twin brother, Paa Quartey. Kobi comes from modest circumstances, however, and Paa’s parents are rich. The senior Quarteys throw the midwives out, after which the women become captives in a forest and perish when voices of the sea entice them into drowning. Meanwhile, young Kobi excels in athletics and his studies, even correcting and teaching his grateful teachers, while young Quartey grows up as a spoiled brat whose doting parents think he’s a prodigy but who flops at everything he tries. After becoming a skillful fisherman, Kobi meets his foreordained twin while delivering fish to his mansion. Despite the parents’ misgivings, the twins bond. Kobi helps his increasingly dissolute brother as he launches a political career. The good twin writes earnest speeches for his brother, even though Paa is “a drinking, partying slob” and “a pampered, and arrogant snob” who revels in drunken orgies and “ménages a beaucoup.” Paa kills a woman in a drunken hit-and-run, and the story ends as a mob storms the twins’ hideout. Kwakye’s imaginative tale takes place in Ghana but could just as easily be set in the United States or any country beset by corruption, any place “where the tall / in intellect are mocked and then entrapped within / manacles of the powerful.” Rhyming quatrains move the story along with wit and grace, and despite the tragic outcome, Kwakye’s writing contains exuberant humor, often sexual or scatological, and cutting insights into human nature, especially the hypocrisy and sycophancy of the hangers-on who feed off the powerful with “faked genuflections and wordy words.”

A darkly humorous modern take on the fleeting triumph of money, corruption, deceit, and evil.

FICTION & LITERATURE
Page count: 176pp

A literary novel tells the story of two couples a continent apart.

Ama Danso, a 29-year-old doctor based in California, is visiting her hometown of Accra, Ghana. She is seated with her friend Abby at a waterfront restaurant when she first sees a figure—the Shoreman—rise from the surf: “The shine of moon-glow on his bared upper torso seemed to carve him out as a dark sparkle on the shoreline. Like a shadow that held light.” She does not speak to him, but the two friends return several times hoping to cross his path. When they finally do, Ama learns his name is Shem Bonsra, but he is reluctant to speak to her for more than a few minutes at a time. Over the course of several dates, Ama learns that Shem has a tragic, fiery past, and that he now works as a nightsoil carrier. This second bit of information causes Ama to stop seeing him—the stigma would be too great—but she cannot get him out of her mind. Meanwhile, in a London pub, a physician named Maud James encounters a guy she calls the Barman. She soon realizes he’s George Stanton, a leader of a far-right political party. His nationalist politics appeal to Maud, whose white father was murdered by black men in her native Zimbabwe. The tales of these couples—Ama and Shem, Maud and George—seem starkly different, but their futures are all bound up together in this novel that explores the interconnected modern world. Kwakye’s (Songs of a Jealous Wind, 2018, etc.) prose finds the tension in the strangeness of place, as here when Ama searches for Shem in the nightsoil-disposing town of Old Fadama: “The town was barely alive and, except for the moon glow, it was totally dark. Even before they got close to the cesspit, they could smell the poignant odor. But they got closer anyway, surrendering safety of body and comfort of nostrils.” The plot moves slowly, and there is never much indication of where it is going. But a bubbling mysteriousness rooted in desire and longing will propel readers ever deeper into this idiosyncratic story.

An oddly compelling tale of two connected couples separated by geography and culture.

ADDITIONAL WORKS AVAILABLE:

EYES OF THE SLAIN WOMAN
Fiction and Literature

Eyes of the Slain Woman: This is a collection of three novellas that explore grief and the tenacity of the human spirit. In Echoes of Hungry Blood, Solo, a disenchanted doctor, leaves his practice in Accra to work in a village, where he is presented with the challenge of caring for those who have committed crimes against his family. His decision has severe ramifications that lead to regret and eventual deliverance. In The Last Next, Solo returns to the city and remarries. His new wife is soon diagnosed with a terminal illness and, unable to cope with the pain, she asks him to euthanize her. His agreement and the ensuing murder trial and conviction become a journey of growth and redemption. Eyes of the Slain Woman narrates the harrowing experiences of Ma Ebo, a long-widowed woman, following the murder of her son. A friend persuades her to visit her son's murderer in prison and in the process find healing and the liberation of forgiveness.

Published:
ISBN: 1937536203
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LEGACY OF PHANTOMS
Literature and Fiction

"‘Legacy of Phantoms’ has a lot to offer in fashioning a new direction for African literature. The style is engaging and the use of idioms and metaphor rich. Perhaps the greatest contribution this novel will make to the corpus of African literature is its psychoanalytical appraisal of the past through the smoky lens of the present, with the future in sight. Students of African politics will find the novel helpful in understanding the psychoanalytical considerations that inform some of the present colonial discourses. The universal truth that the novel tries to advance, that the mastery of logic, truth, communalism, is always present but that it is also displaced and is never completely absorbed by the generality of the people. Scholars will find the position of the novel and its writer engaging." -- Dr. Sola Adeyemi

Published:
ISBN: 1592218008
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OBSESSIONS OF PARADISE
Fiction and Literature

With a keen focus on the strains of both voluntary and forced relocations, this novel blends the divergent experiences of various nationals into a coherent voice of love. Obsessions of Paradise chronicles the oft dehumanizing odyssey of migrants in search of hope, at the same time as it is a tender story of insecure but compelling love. Ama, a Ghanaian doctor based in the United States, is entangled in an improbable if compelling relationship with the destitute Shem. As their relationship dangles on the tightrope of social stigma, another one that seems surefooted is developing between Maud, a London doctor whose family fled Zimbabwe after persecution over land disputes, and George, a local businessman with international connections who flirts with racial politics. The men embark on fate altering journeys to Libya, one in hope of a better life, the other to promote business interests. In Libya, the doctors will confront each other and their men in ways none of them would have imagined. Amid the shock of encountering human-trafficking, and faced with a redemptive option in the face of potential calamity, their ultimate choices illustrate what Kwakye labels the ethnicity of our humanity and demonstrate that love can, and must, speak to all.

Published:
ISBN: 1733587233
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SONGS OF A JEALOUS WIND
Poetry

Benjamin Kwakye's third book of poetry, Songs of A Jealous Wind, has been described by the renowned African scholar/critic, Professor Eustace Palmer as a book that "continues to reinforce [Kwakye's] claim to being incontestably in the front rank of African writers." Rich in inspirational languages and images that resonate with his beloved homeland of Ghana, in addition to allusions made to historical figures/people from the continent, these poems are testaments to historical moments, Africa's oral tradition, and the beauty of the natural world that continues to define Africa's environment. There are also moments where the poet delves into politics and the social terrain of the continent, yet it is the condensed and succinct use of words and imagery that drives each message home. Indeed Kwakye has returned with a strong collection that will certainly leave a lasting impression on his readers.

Published:
ISBN: 0997868961
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SOUL TO SONG
Poetry and Literature

"In a language which echoes no known poet’s, a voice so singular in its unconventionality, and themes that capture the poet’s people’s history and reality in spectacular images, Benjamin Kwakye’s Soul to Song pioneers a fresh path in contemporary African poetry." – Tanure Ojaide, Poet and Frank Porter Graham Professor of Africana Studies, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Published:
ISBN: 0997868929
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THE CLOTHES OF NAKEDNESS
Fiction and Literature

Into a poor, if jovial, world of a group of friends descends the intriguing and dapper Mystique Mysterious bearing attractive offers of a better life. Embracing him is to fall prey to his diabolical machinations; however, those that dare challenge or ignore him do so at their own peril. Faced with seemingly impossible choices, each character must struggle to contend with forces that seem out of human control and endeavor to carve out his or her own destiny. With the flora and fauna of Accra as its backdrop, The Clothes of Nakedness examines the complexities of human interactions and, in the process, offers a gritty expose of relations between rich and poor in modern Ghana

Published:
ISBN: 1592215904
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THE COUNT'S FALSE BANQUET
Fiction and Literature

Benjamin Kwakye concludes his trilogy on the modern African migrant’s experience in America with another dazzling medley of language, plot and outreach to our common humanity. In this final instalment, Count Tutu leaves his native Ghana for the United States seeking the feast of the famed American Dream. His anticipated banquet of dreams sours, however, when he is at once welcomed and rejected, torn by external and internal conflicts, soothed by the promise of romance (both literal and figurative), and inflicted with other deep emotional wounds with far reaching consequences. With the spacious array of the immigrant experience for a canvass, The Count’s False Banquet paints an impressive portrait of the pain of self-imposed banishment from home, the contradictory inescapable boundlessness and restrictions of longing, hope and desire, and the expansiveness of human will.

Published:
ISBN: 0997868937
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THE EXECUTIONER'S CONFESSION
Literature and Fiction

A collection of short stories by Benjamin Kwakye, a double-commonwealth prize for fiction winner. These stories explore contemporary Ghanaian and African society, and the author's experimentation with memorable characters, suspense, and redemption delivers to his readers tales that cannot be easily forgotten.

Published:
ISBN: 0967951100
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THE OTHER CRUCIFIX
Fiction and Literature

An epic novel on the African immigrant experience. Winner of the 2011 IPPY Gold Award Multicultural Fiction (Adult ) “This is a moving and readable story in which one individual’s choices and experiences speak for wider and more universal concerns, encompassing radical upheaval and personal development; crossing borders, crossing continents.” New Internationalist

Published:
ISBN: 0956240127
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THE SUN BY NIGHT
Fiction and Literature

The novel unravels the secrets surrounding the death of a prostitute. Framed around a court case, it is a gripping tale of murder, courtroom shenanigans, and intense conflicts. It explores familial and traditional commitments, individual freedom, marriage, love, and class exploitation to weave an enduring tapestry of great human value.

Published:
ISBN: 1592213502
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THE THREE BOOKS OF SHAMA
Fiction and Literature

Spanning multiple continents and countries, including Rwanda, the United States and Ghana, The Three Books of Shama is an epic chronicle of the life story of Rwandan born Shama Rugwe, following her from her birth to a Christian father and a Moslem mother, to her migration to the United States and her eventual nomination as Chief Justice of the United States. Identified as a Tutsi, Shama survives the Rwandan genocide at great cost, including the loss of her parents and brother, as well as a horrific personal assault that leaves deep emotional scars. Despite this, her migration to the US (and naturalization as a citizen) provides her with new opportunities, including her marriage to the son of an African-American lawyer and Ghanaian migrant, and her enrollment at Harvard Law School, where she excels. Shama gains notoriety after defending two defenders of social opprobrium: a white supremacist (under pressure from her law firm) and a Hutu man who marries her aunt and is later accused of killing Tutsis in the Rwandan genocide. And then all hell breaks loose when she is eventually nominated as Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. The ensuing senate confirmation hearings and opposition to her nomination unearth stubborn gender (because she is a woman), racial (given her race), xenophobic beliefs (on account of her African origins), well as religious intolerance (under false beliefs that she is a Moslem).

Published:
ISBN: 0967951135
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