Book: Osiris Rising

By Ayi Kwei Armah | Wed 14 January 2009

Osiris Rising, Armahs’s sixth novel, is structured after Africa’s oldest narrative, the Isis-Osiris myth cycle. It follows the journey of Ast, an African American scholar who travels to Africa in search for purpose and love and finds her home in a quiet community working to bring the continent’s people back together.

Osiris Rising a novel by Ayi Kwei Armah

The release of any novel by Ayi Kwei Armah is always a literary event of great significance. Perhaps what makes this release so important is that although this edition of Osiris Rising was republished in 2008, the story was originally published in 1995.

The tale of Ast and Asar is one of Africa’s oldest narratives and perhaps that is why its universal truths makes the story seem even more relevant today than when it was originally written. With a story that could be based in any African nation today it sets out the narrative of two pawns in Africa’s liberation struggle against the backdrop of a simple but beautifully potent love story. Armah’s sense of irony deliciously brings alive the protagonists with a clarity matched only by his meticulous adherence to facts throughout the novel. His breakdown of the pseudo-spiritual Pan Africanist psyche through the character Ras Jomo Cinque Equiano is inspired, his promotion of education as a means of empowerment for Africans is both powerful and scrupulous in detail.

Osiris Rising is in many ways far more than a novel. It is distinct from his earlier works the highly acclaimed The Healers and the powerful Two Thousand Series both which have been dubbed historical novels. This work despite its timeless themes is more contemporary and in many ways more frightening because of it.

Don’t read this book if you like your tales of Africa to involve europeans as Tarzan characters coming to save the continent. If on the other hand you are interested in what happens when an African born in the Diaspora falls in love and returns to Mama Africa in search of her continental born counterpart, and then upon arrival has to make a choice after she discovers he will always place work for their continents liberation first, then this is the story for you.

Ayi Kwei Armah is the author of the Healers, Two Thousand Seasons, KMT and the translator of Theophile Obenga’s African philosophy: The Pharaonic Period: 2780-330 BC. His works are published by Per Ankh, an African publishing house founded by a worldwide co-operative of friends.

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