YOU can tell a lot about a place from what its reading. In hustling, church-going Windhoek, locals seem to make a beeline for all things money and prayer. “Our business and religion departments do very well here,” says Exclusive Books (EB) store manager Clara Coetzee.
The large, brightly lit South African book store has been open at the Grove Mall of Namibia since November last year and on a Sunday afternoon, three friends, dressed well, perhaps post-church, discuss literature in the African Fiction section.
“Who is Chimamanda?” asks a young man who admits that he would like to read more but finds the whole thing a tad tedious. “Why is Maya Angelou in this section?” says his seemingly well-read friend who assures him that reading literature in general is somewhat overrated and is not the only way to learn.
The woman isn’t wrong but she’s in a book store – haunt of rabid page turners, rapacious book fiends and pathological bibliophiles – and there’s an art to reading the room.
Books by Angelou aren’t the only American ones given African pride of place. Toni Morrison and Roxane Gay stand tall in an African Fiction section dominated by South African authors and even the UK’s Zadie Smith cracks the melanin nod. A cursory search for books by Namibian authors disappoints but Coetzee assures me that they do stock at least one.
“We do stock Namibian authors like Piet Van Rooyen ‘By die Brandende Berg’,” says Coetzee who presides over a whole wall of what may be Exclusive Books’ largest section broadly titled ‘Afrikaans’ and adds that EB is currently waiting for feedback about stocking other Namibian authors from their head office.