Guanya Pau: A Story of an African Princess

Overview

Origins are often obscure and beginnings easily forgotten. The first novel ever published by an African has, until now, been lost in rare book collections, unknown to scholars and public alike. Now reissued a century after its first publication, Joseph J. Walters's Guanya Pau can be reread in the context of a varied and vigorous African literature. Its subject and the author's outlook make it remarkably modern.

Guanya Pau deals with the desire of Guanya, an African princess, to ...

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Overview

Origins are often obscure and beginnings easily forgotten. The first novel ever published by an African has, until now, been lost in rare book collections, unknown to scholars and public alike. Now reissued a century after its first publication, Joseph J. Walters's Guanya Pau can be reread in the context of a varied and vigorous African literature. Its subject and the author's outlook make it remarkably modern.

Guanya Pau deals with the desire of Guanya, an African princess, to escape a repulsive fate: betrothal to a wealthy man twenty years older than she. Worse, he is a polygamist, compensating for his own ugliness with the beauty of many wives. Guanya must combat his eagerness, her mother's wish, and a tribal tradition that is as entrenched as it is oppressive. When she cannot fight, she flees, encountering fierce anti-feminine practices everywhere she goes.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This novel of an African girl's attempted escape from an arranged polygamous marriage, the first by an African in English, was originally published in 1891 and has recently been rediscovered and reissued. Princess Guanya Pau has been betrothed to a man she loathes; her strict mother will not let her marry her true love, Momo. Determined Guanya and her faithful friend, Jassah, run away to seek a land where women are treated respectfully and equally. Along their journey they see their unfortunate countrywomen being mistreated by men, and this furthers their desire to find a place where all believe ``woman is as good and great as man, and intended to be his equal.'' Walters, a Liberian and a devout Christian, places his Christian beliefs firmly at the center of the novel; indeed, Guanya's premonitory, last dream is of a holy city of churches where Africans have ``laid their hearts down to the American religion.'' In this simple story, plainly told, the interplay of Walters's feelings for his native land and his adoption of Western values provides fascinating reading for the modern audience. An excellent and informative introduction accompanies the novel. (Feb.)
Library Journal
This claims to be the first novel ever published in English by an African. Liberian-born Walters produced the novel in 1891 when studying in the United States. The plot follows the woes of title character Guanya Pau, who flees her native land to avoid an arranged marriage and to search for a new home where women have rights. This edition includes a foreword by African literature scholar Oyekan Owomoyela, which discusses the book's significance.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803247642
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1994
  • Pages: 114
  • Product dimensions: 5.52 (w) x 8.31 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

Joseph J. Walters, a Vai born in Liberia in the 1860s, was first educated in Robertsport, Liberia. He continued his studies in the United States, earning a Bachelor of Arts at Oberlin College in 1893. He then returned to Liberia, where he died in 1934 of tuberculosis contracted when in the United States. Oyekan Owomoyela is the editor of A History of Twentieth-Century African Literatures (Nebraska 1993).
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