Saturday, April 30, 2011

April in Review, Projections for May

Traffic received by this blog in April was relatively low compared to the last three months, though I don't trust blogger's stats tab where number of times a page has been viewed keep decreasing. In terms of reading I read five novels with a total of 920 pages on a variety of genres: biography/autobiography, poetry and full-length novels. On the interview front, I interviewed no one. Or specifically I did not receive responses from some of the interview I sent out. The following are the books read and the links to them:

  • Mine Boy by Peter Abrahams. I read this book for the Top 100 Reading Challenge. A very interesting novel that vividly projects the plight of native South Africans right before the official institution of apartheid. We observe the struggle of the natives and what they have to fight against daily to survive through the eyes of a rural-urban emigre, Xuma.
  • Purple Violet of Oshaantu by Neshani Andreas. This was read for the Africa Reading Challenge. This novel tells of the state and plight of women in a patriarchal traditional village of Namibia. The issues of property disinheritance, widowhood rites/mistreatments, the status of women in marriage and domestic abuse.
  • Accra! Accra! More Poems about Modern Afrikans by Papa Kobina Ulzen. The second poetry anthology I have reviewed for this year. I enjoyed the varied, but closely knit, themes and the import of the anthology. The poems were simple and easy to understand but then sends deeper messages to those who would listen to its admonishments.
  • The Book of Chameleons by Jose Eduardo Agualusa. Read for the Africa Reading Challenge, this is a uniquely told story. Narrated by a unique wall gecko, who shares dreams with the owner of the house - Felix Ventura - in the first person. Through this novel, we observe a state that is just emerging from a 25-year civil war and the changes that occur. Both individuals who committed crimes and the victims want to reshape their past and move ahead. And this is where Felix comes in. He sells memories to those who need it, reconstructing peoples past to suit their present position and their future aspiration. And interesting novel.
  • Fela, This Bitch of a Life by Carlos Moore. This biography cum autobiography by and for Fela is yet to be reviewed. However, it tells of the life of a great musical icon of world fame who lived his life fighting corruption in his country, Nigeria. Consequently, he became public enemy number one by both military and civilian governments. He was beaten, broken, battered, and betrayed by the very people he set out to protect. Yet, he never gave up. In the end he died in cold penury with his ideas intact and his fight still continues. Now Fela is a big name in the world of music. Unlike Bob Marley and James Brown who used euphemisms and metaphors to fight the political elite, Fela mentioned names calling soldiers zombies who would do nothing until they are told. (Review coming up soon)
May would be an extremely slow month. I would be hitting the field on a data collection exercise. However, I would schedule all my postings when I get the time in order not to starve my readers. May might be a month of diverse readings. Because I would be in the field, I would love to read books that are more interesting and not necessarily be on the list of challenges.

Library Additions

The last time I posted on books I have acquired was exactly a month ago, on March 29. Of the four books I acquired then, I have read only one: Accra! Accra! More Poems about Modern Afrikans. However, as all readers or particularly bibliophiles know, we acquire books faster than we read them. If not we would be in deficit. Over the past month, I have been lucky to have come into some number of books through a combination of gifts and purchase.

When I read Pride and Prejudice, I showed my love for that book and for Jane Austen as a writer. I also made my intentions known that I would love to read her books. This week I received three packages of three books per package from Amy of Amy Reads and guess what? Four of them were Jane Austens. Yes! Thanks Amy of such a kind gesture. The following are the books I received from Amy:
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. This one of the books I received from Amy. Jane Austen is on my author to read. She makes me understand the past and how we related to it, fiction or no fiction.
  • Emma by Jane Austen
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  • Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  • 1984 by George Orwell. 1984 is on my list of Top 100 books to be read. I like the negative utopian world Orwell created and the way he's been vindicated by the books he wrote. Animal Farm is as relevant today as ever. Today, still, some individuals consider themselves more important than others. If not tribalism, racism, ethnicism and all those schisms wouldn't be there. I was listening to the announcement of the royal wedding and what the tabloids were saying and I became sad. Why do they refer to Kate as 'average', 'middle class', and all those derogatory terms. Isn't she human first? Isn't it the same blood that runs through her veins. I recently chanced upon a letter by Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana's first president, in the letter he said 'an advantage gained by privilege and not merit is illusory.' Besides, after the implementation of the PATRIOTS Act, the Big Brother thing Orwell mentioned has even become more important. I believe we all need to read this novel.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This is also on my list of Top 100 books to be read in five years. I am in the third year of this challenge and thanks to Amy I am getting some of the books.
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. This is also on my list of Top 100 books to be read in five years. This novel would also lead me into a different location-based literature, Arabic Literature. I know the author lives in America but I believe there would be that Arabic influence there.
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. It was in search of this book that led me to read Oryx and Crake which I loved the most. I heard Year of the Flood follows this. Again on my Top 100 list and again given to me by Amy.
  • A Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Though this book is not on my list of Top 100 books, the author is on my list of authors to be read. Besides, who can refuse this book? Unless perhaps the person has already read it and decided against it.
In addition to the books Amy sent me, I have also purchased some books and these are:
  • A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi wa Thiong'o. This is also on my Top 100 list of books to be read. It's also on the list of the Best 100 African Books of the 20th Century.
  • The River Between by Ngugi wa Thiong'o. Ever since the rumour surfaced that he was being considered for the Nobel prize (the one Mario Vargas Llosa won), I have been in search of his books. It is this search that led me to reading Matigari.
  • Gathering Seaweed: African Prison Writing by Jack Mapanje (Editor). This is a collection of essays, letters and poems by Africans who found their way into prisons mainly because of their political inclination and their fight for democracy and the overthrow of colonialism and apartheid. This would include names like Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, Jack Mapanje and more. Jack Mapanje is a poet whose anthology The Chattering Wagtails of Mikuyu Prison was reviewed on this blog.
  • The Portrait of an Artist as an Old Man by Joseph Heller. Joseph Heller is on the list of authors I have to read with his book Catch-22.
I have also received some books from authors:
  • A Love Rekindled by Myne Whitman. I read A Heart to Mend by this author and even though I am not fully into love stories or romance I enjoyed it. Sometimes a change from one's comfort zone is required. Besides, I am happy that Africans are broadening their genres to cover all aspects of lives. I believe that if one wants to read African novels one must be able to read from Romance to Futuristic Science Fiction and even Fantasy. In this way, we would tell our stories from varied perspectives. And this leads me to the second and the third:
  • Love at Dawn by Lara Daniels. Just like Myne Whitman, Lara writes love stories. Though I haven't read any of her novels I am happy to try these ones.
  • Love in Paradise by Lara Daniels. The second of Lara's novels. 
Non-book item received through a book blog:
  • I also received an ear-rings and a sticker of Madame Tussaud (by Michelle Moran) from Anna of Diary of an Eccentric. I have given the earrings to my partner. She loved it.
I would be bringing you reviews of these novels/novellas with time. I believe at the pace I am reading I have enough novels to last me for a while. But I cannot discount the fact that I would still be purchasing books. It's a part of me. It's my addiction and what an addiction to have!

Upcoming Anniversary: May 11, 2011 would be exactly two years I first posted into this blog. I would write the history of this blog and the changes that had gone on over the years. How it came to be and what it was meant to be, what is it now and where it is heading to. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Quotes for Friday from Jose Eduardo Agualusa's The Book of Chameleons

Today's quotes come from a book I reviewed yesterday The Book of Chameleons by Jose Eduardo Agualusa. This is a wonderful novel and definitely novel in its approach. I have been told that his Rainy Season is a great novel. I would search for that.

He was an unpleasant sort of character, professionally indignant, who'd built up his whole career abroad, selling our national horrors to European readers. Misery does ever so well in wealthy countries. (Page 68)

"In your novels do you lie deliberately  or just out of ignorance?"... "I'm a liar by vocation," he shouted. "I lie with joy! Literature is the only chance for a true liar to attain any sort of social acceptance." (Page 68)

[T]he principal difference between a dictatorship and a democracy is that in the former there exists only one truth, the truth as imposed by power, while in free countries every man has the right to defend his own version of events. (Page 68)

Truth is superstition. (Page 68)

If he'd been able to he would have rolled out a rose-petal carpet at her feet. He would have liked to conduct an orchestra of birds to sing as rainbows appeared in the sky, one by one. (Page 69)

Women are moved by declarations of love, however ridiculous they be. (Page 69)

"My problem isn't the sun!" he retorted. "it's the lack of melanin." He laughed: "Have you noticed that anything inanimate gets bleached whiter in the sun, but living things get more color?" (Page 80)

Reality is painful and imperfect ... That's just the way it is, that's how we distinguish it from dreams. When something seems absolutely lovely we think it can only be a dream, and we pinch ourselves just to be sure we're really not dreaming - if it hurts it's because we're not dreaming. Reality can hurt us, even those moments when it may seem to us to be a dream. You can find everything that exists in the world in books - sometimes truer in colors, and without the real pain of everything that really does exist. Given a choice between life and books, my son, you must choose books. (Page 94)

Happiness is almost always irresponsible. We're happy for those brief moments when we close our eyes. (Page 94)

He was evil, and he didn't know it. He didn't know what evil was. That is to say, he was pure evil. (Page 105)

Lies are everywhere. Even nature herself lies. What is camouflage, for instance, but a lie? The chameleon disguises itself as a leaf in order to deceive a poor butterfly. He lies to it saying, Don't worry, my dear, can't you see I'm just a very green leaf waving in the breeze, and then he jets out his tongue at six hundred and twenty-five centimeters a second, and eats it. (Page 122)

Truth is a habit of being ambiguous. If it were exact it wouldn't be human. (Page 122)

Sometimes they don't write what I mean, they just write what I say. (Page 122)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

77. The Book of Chameleons by Jose Eduardo Agualusa

Title: The Book of Chameleons
Author: Jose Eduardo Agualusa
Translator: Daniel Hahn
Original Language: Portuguese
Genre: Novel/Mystery
Publishers: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 180
Year of Publication: 2004 (English, 2006)
Country: Angola

In this totally experimental and unique book, Jose Eduardo Agualusa tells the story of a murder as narrated, in the first person, by a wall gecko. The story involves an albino by name of Felix Ventura, who sells memories to people and help construct people's past, Angela Lucia, a lady who had suddenly become friends with Felix, a foreigner later to be called Jose Bachmann (but actually named Pedro Gouvei) and a wall gecko - a reincarnation of Jorge Luis Borges (according to the author).

The gecko, which shares dreams with its master (house owner), tells of what this master, Felix Ventura does; how Felix deals with the reconstruction of people's past and most of his clients are people whose future is secured; his relationship with women and his fascinating love for books. Then one day Felix was approached by a war photographer, without a name, but with several thousands of dollars and a request to have his past constructed. His arrival into the household also marked the entry of Angela Lucia, also a photographer, into Felix's life and though Eulalio - the gecko - considered this no coincidence, his master saw it that way.

Set in Angola during the period right after the end of the 25-year civil war and Marxism has come to an end and people are trying to reinvent themselves, according to the author, the story tells of how people change their lifestyle according to the dictates of the day and how people who don't go with the flow could easily fall out of grace and be preyed upon by the very establishment they helped built. Pedro Gouvei, the war photographer, was arrested by the Angolan intelligence and sentenced to prison. He was however released and was told that his wife was dead together with his daughter. To make a new life he left the country only to return to have his past reconstructed, to take revenge on the man who killed his wife and lied to him about the death of his daughter. This led to several coincidences and a murder occurred.

Written in several chapters, with each chapter marked by a title that almost summarises what the reader is going to read, this novel could boasts of stylish phrases that is perhaps characteristic of Lusophonic writers. Chapters range from a single page to about four or five pages. The novel is both surreal and real; both logical and illogical. It tries to merge things that should be diametrically opposing into a homogeneous consistency and this the author did without a blemish.

Spawning the novel are quotes and phrases that shows how widely read the author is and it is this introduction to new authors, in addition to the beauty of the write, that made me enjoy this story the most:
"Truth has a habit of being ambiguous too. If it were exact it wouldn't be human." As he spoke he became increasingly animated. "You quoted Ricardo Reis. Allow me, then, to quote Montaigne: Nothing seems true that cannot also seem false. There are dozens of professions for which knowing how to lie is a virtue. I'm thinking of diplomats, statesmen, lawyers, actors, writers, chess players. (Page 122)
I also found two statements which support some of the issues I have raised here, albeit not necessarily a direct message from the author:
You couldn't write a story these days, even a short story, without the female lead being raped by an alcoholic father. (Page 117)
He was an unpleasant  sort of character, professionally indignant, who'd built up his whole career abroad, selling our national horrors to European readers. Misery does ever so well in wealthy countries.
My only problem with the story is that when the blurb promised an 'original murder mystery', I was eagerly waiting for it to happen, thus I read with that in mind and about two-thirds through the novel I still couldn't guess how murder could be part of the story. And when it finally came, almost like the shadow of a passing insect, the story spirals into its denouement. This, somewhat destroyed the enjoyment I should have had from the earlier pages. However, the author brought all the strands together and it is in the last pages that we really get to understand the story fully.
Brief Bio: José Eduardo Agualusa [Alves da Cunha], born 1960 in Huambo, Angola, spends most of his time in Portugal, Angola and Brazil, working as a writer and journalist.

He received three literary grants. One from the Centro Nacional da Cultura in 1997 to write Creole, the second one in 2000 from theFundação do Oriente, allowed him to stay three months in Goa and write Um estranho em Goa and the third one in 2001 fromDeutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst, allowed him to live one year in Berlin where he wrote O Ano em que Zumbi Tomou o Rio. In the begining of 2009 Agualusa completed his novel Barroco tropical in Amsterdam, while living in the residency for writers, a joint initiative by the Dutch Foundation for Litterature and the Foundation for the Production and Translation of Dutch Literature. (Source)

ImageNations Rating: 5.0 out of 6.0

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

76. Accra! Accra! More Poems About Modern Afrikans by Papa Kobina Ulzen

Title: Accra! Accra! More Poems About Modern Afrikans
Author: Papa Kobina Ulzen
Genre: Poetry
Pages: 28
Publisher: Edward Ulzen
Year of Publication: 2011
Country: Ghana

At a mere 28 pages, this chapbook manages to pack a lot of within its pages. Whether questioning the reasons why we are still bound in chains, even though our prisoners left many years ago, or questioning his own father for some of the decisions he made - especially why he divorced his mother - or even reminiscing about all the places he has lived, the poems are poignant and straightforward, devoid of the elaborateness and the curlicue phrases common to most poems. Here the reader need not to conjure deeper thoughts to understand the theme or fall in love with the text. All that is required is a ready and prejudice-less mind.

The collection begins with 'Kyekyewere' which is a small village about 70km outside Accra. Here the author reminisces a voluntary work he carried out to help construct a classroom block. This is followed by Accra! Accra! in which the author, Papa Kobina, reminisces his days in the busy city of Accra when as a young man prepared to go to work he waits for the a public transport. The informal conversations that go on between the driver's assistant (popularly known as mate) and the passengers have been nicely captured in this poem. The poem begins with 
"Accra! Accra!"/"Sorry, full up"/"Accra! Accra!"/"Circle only, sah!"
How many of us, in Accra, haven't held such conversations before? These conversations have morphed into both telepathic and sign language, where a potential passenger could look at the driver and the driver would shake his head or where the potential passenger would twirl his finger or point in a specific direction - sometimes towards the sky - to signify where he/she is going. And what a way to begin the collection knowing that the author has travelled to and lived in many countries in Africa and the world at large. 

In 'What was, What is?' the author compares events in apartheid South Africa with that in Independent Kenya. It's a fascinating piece especially when one realises that nothing much has change: though the song has changed the puppet remains the same. Here we see how black natives file, like a herd of cattle, into the mines in black townships in South Africa - which reminds me of Mine Boy by Peter Abrahams - and also from Kiberia township in Kenya to Nairobi's industrial area in the hope of being 'chosen to work for a day in low paying jobs...'. This is one mark of this anthology. Papa Kobina does not pretend that all is well after independence, he sees it as it is and asks why it must be so. He punctures the reverie we have created and spreads the mat of reality deep in our minds. Why haven't things change? Why must the before and after be the same? What impact has freedom had if our plight remains the same? These questions are similar to those asked by the post-colonial writers (fiction) like Ayi Kwei Armah in his The Beautyful Ones are not yet Born, Ngugi wa Thiong'o in Matigari, or Chinua Achebe's A Man of the People and many others.

It is in this vein that he writes 'Any Better?' This piece begins with a blunt and rhetorical question
Are we any better than them/those who came and enslaved/those who came and colonised/so many years no, they've been gone/yet our crimes are like theirs...
and why are our crimes like them when we claim to be independent and when our independence is supposed to fetch us freedom and our freedom, development? He answers it himself:
for still we enslave one another/not in the name of nation religion and race/but in the name of tribe/still we colonise one another/not from country to country/but the urban colonise the rural
And how many times have we seen the disparity between the rural folks - whose sweat 'capital' feed us - and the urban rich - whose mouths are widely-open to swallow this sweat - as colonisation. All over the place people are much more concern on being this or that. And in so doing, instead of identifying this as our weakness, we try to impose ourselves, creating some sort of superiority akin to the colonialists'.

But Papa Kobina Ulzen do not only leave us with problem identification. He admonishes us to 'take steps to become better for they left us long ago'. And it is what is not said after this line that is taunts and haunts. What would happen if we do not change for the better? This is left to the mental gymnastics of the reader and all that he/she has to do is to look around; the effects are there for all to see. Yet, those who 'left us long ago' are not left out of Ulzen's keen eyes for in 'A little Light Please (from the slave quarters)', the author provides a vivid image of the conditions of the dungeons in which slaves were damped before shipment. Here, the author regards himself part of those in this dungeon requesting for a little more light 'for it's hot and stuffy' and the 'one foot by one foot aperture' provides not enough light and air, especially when they have been 'crammed (...) like sardines and can barely breathe.'

Two main subjects are treated in this anthology: reminiscence (parents and Africa) and hope (Africa) and metaphorically we can equate the two. So that whether the author is talking about the 'Conversations we Never Had', which he directed at his father, or 'Prayer for the Black Child' or even 'Reclamation', there is a sense of nostalgia and hope threading through all. And it is on these poems that the collection ends. In 'Reclamation' he talks of not blaming the colonialist but we should come together to forge our own future. In 'Prayer for the Black Child' he reflects on racial discrimination and what we can all do 'to make this world a better place a safer place for the black child'.

This is a strong collection of poetry. I can only advise you to read Papa Kobina's poems but can't tell you where you could get one as this was given to the participants at the Monthly Ghana Voices Series Book Reading participants. However, it is a great collection of poetry, that is relevant to and would be relevant tomorrow. He shows that poetry need not be complex.
Brief Bio: Papa Kobina Ulzen is author of Accra! Accra! Poems About Modern Afrikans, which includes pieces that show glimpses of the three African countries Papa lived in – Ghana, Kenya and Zambia as well as the seven other African countries he travelled in – before migrating to Canada over two decades ago. Papa Kobinna Ulzen is a Ghanaian-born writer based in Toronto. His poetry is also published inAkwantu, Thoughts of a New Canadian.

Papa Kobinna has written and produced several short plays including Karibuni Canada, Malaika, Bus Stop, Lunch Time, Lunch Time Again. Papa is currently working on his first African themed feature length play Ekua na Kamau. This is a love story set in Accra. (Source)

ImageNations Rating: 4.5 out of 6.0

Thursday, April 21, 2011

75. The Purple Violet of Oshaantu by Neshani Andreas

Title: The Purple Violet of Oshaantu
Author: Neshani Andreas
Genre: Novel/Rural
Publishers: Heinemann (African Writers Series)
Year of Publication: 2001
Country: Namibia

The Purple Violet of Oshaantu is a novel that catalogues everything that is absolutely wrong in marriage: extramarital affair, domestic abuse, disrespect, disinheritance, widow-molestation, superstition, economic destitution, and more. Told by Mee Ali, whose marriage is perfect and exemplary, we follow her observations of the marriage life of her friend Kauna, who at the beginning of her marriage to Shange was considered as beautiful as the Purple Violet flower that grows in Oshaantu. However, everything went sour when Shange took on a mistress and began spending his nights away from home. Kauna became lonely, physically and emotionally distressed. She lost respect in the community because her women friends blame her for allowing her husband to leave her for another woman. The community and the Church were almost like bedfellows: showing no sympathy towards her state. In fact the behaviour of the Church and its leader could not be extricated from the larger society. Others also considered Shange's behaviour normal. In all these, there were others who stood for Kauna, like her friend Mee Ali and the 'no nonsense' old woman Mukwankala. When Shange returned one evening from his mistress's house only to die in his chair, all fingers pointed to Kauna. They asked how a man so strong could come home and just die? Add to her misery is her refusal, or inability, to weep because she could not pretend to be affected by her husband's death or that his being away takes something from her life. Perhaps she considered him dead even when he lived. Consequently, she was said to have bewitched her husband so she could inherit his property.

All through the story, we are told, from the perspectives of Mee Ali, about some of the ills within the marriage institution and how most were perpetrated by men and supported by the women. For instance, at Mee Ali's husband's brother's funeral, the widow was maltreated and every item of her dead husband's was taken away from her because the fetish priest claimed she bewitched her husband. Same fate also befell Kauna, though without the participation of a fetish priest.

With the exception of Michael, the men in the novel were either wife-beaters, drunks, or dullards who could not protect the women in their family, whereas the women were hardworking individuals: cultivating farms, selling at markets - after trekking long distances, and open-minded - questioning the rights of women. Perhaps in a society usually referred to as being patriarchal, such issues are pertinent and the questions worth raising and answers worth seeking. Yet, the author also showed women who fight to protect the status and she - the narrator - wonders how they would feel if such fate befalls them too. On the other hand, the author provided her concept of marriage and how it should be through the almost perfect marriage of Michael and Mee Ali. Thus, in such parallel presentation of good and bad, with the bad narrated by the good, the difference became even starker.

Since the novel was narrated by one who was not the main character, but one who observes events because she is a friend of the main character, I somehow felt being on the periphery of the story, never really getting to the core. I really would have loved to know how Kauna, herself, felt, not how Mee Ali thinks Kauna feels or not the stories Kauna had told her, or the things she saw done to Kauna. Accordingly, there were some parts of the narration that were detailedly narrated that one wonders whether the author had switched to an omniscient observer and narrator. And this includes Kauna's thoughts. Other places also stretched and I felt the story lost its substance there. However, this was quickly resolved.
Overall, this novel reads quiet well and I would recommend it to all who work in the direction of women empowerment and also to those men who are like Shange; that is, those patriarchal men who see domination as a status. This is a novel about the quest for humanity not for equality. 
Brief Bio: Neshani Andreas was born in Walvis Bay, Namibia, in 1964. She trained as a teacher at the Ongwediva Teachers' College. The Purple Violet of Oshaantu is her first novel.(Source)

ImageNations Rating: 4.0 out 6.0

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Picture Speaks: At the Launch of Kofi Akpabli's Humorous Travelogue, A Sense of Savannah - Tales of a Friendly Walk Through Northern Ghana

The second Picture Speaks in the past two yeas features a shot from the launch of Kofi Akpali's humorous travelogue: Sense of Savannah, Tales of a Friendly Walk through Northern Ghana.

In the Middle is M. K. B. Asante, a renowned Diplomat and Statesman, followed by the author Kofi Akpabli (in spectacles). The Book was launched at the National Theatre on March 31, 2011 and copies are currently available at all Bookshops in Ghana: Silverbird, Legon Bookshop etc.

Monday, April 18, 2011

74. Mine Boy by Peter Abrahams

Title: Mine Boy
Author: Peter Abrahams
Genre: Novel/Race/Love
Publishers: Heinemann (African Writers Series)
Year of Publication: 1946 (this edition, 1989)
Country: South Africa

For the Top 100 Books Challenge
'You say you understand,' Xuma said, 'but how can you? You are a white man. You do not carry a pass. You do not know how it feels to be stopped by a policeman in the street. You go where you like. You do not know how it feels when they say "Get out! White people only." Did your woman leave you because she is mad with wanting the same things the white man has? ... That is understanding. The understanding of the heart and the pain of understanding, not just the head and lips. I feel things! You want me to be your friend. How can I be your friend when your people do this to me and my people?' (Page 172) 
And this serves as my summary of the novel Mine Boy, a story about love and race published two years before the official implementation of apartheid in South Africa in 1948, but which highlights the racial discrimination and prejudices that existed in South African society at the time. We follow Xuma, who has migrated from his village in the North to Johannesburg in search of a job in the mines, as he goes through one heartbreak after another. The book opens with his entry into Johannesburg where he was spotted and taken into the residence of the benevolent Leah, at Malay Camp, one of several sprawling black only quarters devoid of social amenities. This gesture is common in most African societies, where people are obliged, by tradition, to help one another, especially those who have travelled from afar, known and unknown.

After Leah got to know the purpose of Xuma's migration he offered him a job which he declined, subtly, opting for a job in the mines because 'it is a man's work' even after he had been informed that the miners 'cough and then spit blood and become weak and die'. Leah was a Skokiaan Queen dealing in locally-brewed beer, a product that has been banned, of which a culprit could serve a jail term if arrested. Abrahams used something as simple as beer to show how deeply divided the society was at the time. For as we read later when Xuma has become aware of the 'ways of the city', he questioned
Why is it wrong if Leah sells beer and right if a white person sells beer? (Page 168)
In spite of this, Leah provided for Xuma until he got a job at the mines as a Boss Boy for Paddy (or the Red One), after he was introduced by Johannes, Lena's 'man' who is 'loud and boastful and arrogant and told the world that he was J. P. Williamson and he would crush any sonofabitch' when drunk and the one who is 'quiet and retiring and soft spoken ... Gentle as a lamb and seemingly ashamed of his great size and strength' when sober. Johannes introduction as a character and his behaviour is very metaphorical. It's almost parallel to the workings of the read Johannesburg society, not finding itself, drawn by two opposing ideologies: blacks are humans vs blacks are not.

At the residence of Leah, at Malay Camp, are Maisy - the sprightly lady who made Xuma laughed even when he doesn't want to; Eliza - who love the things of the whites; Daddy - the always-drunk man who was once a respected and wealthy man, took Leah into his residence and catered for her until he began to assert his rights and mobilise people to do same; Lena who had educated children but worked with Leah; and Ma Plank a worker at Leah's place. Xuma fell in love with Eliza but Eliza is enigmatic. She wants the things she knows she could not have. She wants the things of the white man and this made her unhappy and this unhappiness fed into her relationship with Xuma, loving him and 'unloving' him at the same time. So that sometimes she would willingly decide to be with him only to leave a few seconds later. The 'madness of the city, that had affected her mood caused it to swing from one extreme to the other stochastically. But Maisy also loved Xuma and made him smile. The psychological dilemma, the torment of wanting and not having, or needing and knowing no matter how hard you work at it you simply would not achieve it plays out well. However, it could also be a mentally embedded ideology deeply seated in the minds of the natives for there were blacks who had what the white men had.

Just when Xuma thought all was well with him, after Eliza had asked him to take her as 'his woman', things began to fall apart. First Daddy died after he was knocked down by a car, then Eliza 'went on a long train journey' from which 'she will not return'. Then, Leah who had been bribing some policemen for information on their activities, was trapped and arrested. Thus, once the major tree was cut the birds had to leave and so all the people at Leah's residence left. Xuma became devastated at the arrest and jail of Leah to the detriment of his work at the mine. Paddy having noticed Xuma's desolation attempted to imbibe some activism into him. However, this activism was to rear its head when Johannes and his white master, Christian, died underground in the mines. Xuma and Paddy led a demonstration against the mine manager, requesting that the problem be solved before they go in and work. The police were called in to effect the arrest of the striking miners.
One by one the lights of Malay Camp were turned out. One by one Vrededorp and the other dark places of Johannesburg, of South Africa,  were turned out. The streets were empty. The leaning, tired houses were quiet. Only shadows moved everywhere. Only the quiet hum of the night hung over the city. Over Vrededorp. Over Malay Camp.
Regarded as the first modern novel of Black South Africa, the novel is told from the point of view of Xuma, his travails become ours and his heartbreaks too. By using the simple and everyday life of Black South Africans, Abrahams showed us how racism (or apartheid) had become endemic in South African society so that from birth to deaths one is discriminated against. It is believed that this was one of the first books to expose universally the condition of black South Africans under a white regime. And yet the author never exhibited hatred in his narration for there were likable whites as well as detestable blacks. He propounded the 'man first' ideology, as explained by Paddy to Xuma.

This is the first novel by a black South African I have read and I recommend it, as most of the SA Literature I have read, unreservedly. 

Brief Bio: (born March 19, 1919, Vrededorp, near Johannesburg, S.Af.), most prolific of South Africa’s black prose writers, whose early novel Mine Boy (1946) was the first to depict the dehumanizing effect of racism upon South African blacks. Abrahams left South Africa at the age of 20, settling first in Britain and then in Jamaica; nevertheless, most of his novels and short stories are based on his early life in South Africa. Mine Boy tells of a country youth thrown into the alien and oppressive culture of a large South African industrial city. (Source
ImageNations Rating: 5.0 out of 6.0

Proverb Monday

Proverb: Aserewa su agyenkuku su a, ne mene mu pae
Transliteration: If the sunbird sings the song of the dove, its throat bursts.
Usage: If you try and imitate someone more talented than yourself or more important, you will only damage yourself.
in Bu me Bε by Peggy Appiah et al.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Reading or being Read to: Choice between Audio and Visual Books

I have rejected all audio books I have been offered. I am always scared that I would lose something if I listened to the book instead of reading it. I know there are those whose only choice is to listen. However, if you have the choice which one would you choose: audio or visual? If you have ever listened to an audio book what made you choose it? How would you compare a book you have read and one you have listened to? Also there are words writers italicise or put between inverted commas to create a different meaning or effect - sometimes for humour or for emphasis. How are these carried out in audio readings. Besides, we all have different voices, mental or vocal, how do you cope with other people's voice or follow completely for meaning.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Quotes for Friday from Peter Abrahams' Mine Boy

Today's Friday Quotes come from a book I would be reviewing next week. Usually, I review before the quote but I have been slow in my reading for some time now and so do not have an already read book to quote from. Mine Boy by Peter Abrahams is described as the first modern novel of black South Africa. This is also the first novel I have read by a black South African. Note that it was published in 1946, two years before the institution of apartheid in 1948.

I am no good and I cannot help myself. It will be right if you hate me. You should beat me. But inside me there is something wrong. And it is because I want the things of the white people. I want to be like the white people and go where they go and do the things they do and I am black. I cannot help it. Inside I am not black and I do not want to be a black person. (Page 60)

The only place where he was completely free was underground in the mines. There he was a master and knew his way. There he did not even fear his white man, for his white man depended on him. He was the boss boy. He gave the orders to the other mine boys. They would do for him what they would not do for his white man or any other white man. (Page 61)

His white man had even tried to make friends with him because the other mine boys respected him so much. But a white man and a black man cannot be friends. They work together. That's all. (Page 61)

He's just a mine boy ... Yes. Grand, but not a human being yet. Just a mine boy. (Page 67)

A man's a man to the extent that he asserts himself. There's no assertion in your mine boy. There is confusion and bewilderment and acceptance. Nothing more. (Page 68)

So many people who consider themselves progressives have their own weird notions about the native, but they all have one thing in common. They want to decide who the good native is and they want to do good things for him. [...] They want to think for him and he must accept their thoughts. And they like him to depend on them. (Page 68)

It is not enough to destroy, you must build as well. Build up a stock of faith in your breast in native Zuma, mine boy, who has no social conscience, who cannot read or write and cannot understand his wanting what you want. (Page 69)

The natives did not like locations, and besides, they were all full, so the white man had started townships in the outlying district of Johannesburg in the hope of killing Vrededorp and Malay Camp. (Page 95)

If a man loves a woman he loves her. That is all. There is no bad and there is no good. There is only love. The only thing that is bad is if a man loves a woman and she loves him not. (Page 119)

A woman finds a man and the whole world is a new place. And the fighting stiffness that was ever in her body, goes. And the hardness of her head stops and she does not think any more with her head but feels with her heart. Yes, it is ever so. And with a man it is so too. His shoulders square and a smile is not far from his lips and there is a new certainty in him. Yes. It has ever been so and it will ever be so when a man and a woman love. (Page 123)

If a woman loves a man she does that which is good for him. (Page 124)

Hard work helps the heart (153)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

New Poetry Anthologies from Ghana and Zimbabwe

Look Where You Have Gone to Sit (Edited by Martin Egblewogbe and Laban Carrick Hill)
The Writers Project of Ghana has released the first of a series of anthologies titled Look Where You have Gone to Sit. Edited by Martin Egblewogbe and Laban Carrick Hill and published by Woeli Publishing Services in Accra, Look Where You have Gone to Sit features the work of nineteen new writers, presenting exciting writings across different themes. Writers Project of Ghana intends to continue its efforts to put out more anthologies of Ghanaian writing; consequently, there will be a launch for the next anthologies for 2011 later this year, one for poetry and another for short stories. Copies of this anthology would be available in all bookstores soon, so keep looking.

I have a poem, Finding My Voice, in this anthology. For more information contact

Together by Julius Chingono and John Eppels
Co-published by 'amaBooks (Bulawayo, Zimbabwe), University of KwaZulu-Nala Press (South Africa) and University of New Orleans (USA), Together  is a collaborative writing between Chingono and Eppels. This book would honour the memory of Chingono who passed away in January this year. Together is being launched on April 18.

Date: April 18, 2011
Time: 5:30 pm
Venue: Lobby Books, Idasa's Cape Town Democracy Centre, 6 Spin Street, Cape Town

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Chimamanda Adichie: Dangers of a Single Story

Ever since I listened to Chimamanda's Dangers of a Single Story, I have mentioned and referred to it several times. I refer to it any time people try to stereotype others; anytime people try to define others using lexical and imagistic clichés. However, due to the recent upsurge in negative reportage from mainstream media, such as CNN - which are suppose to know best - and smaller outlets like motherboard, I think it is high time I posted it here on my blog, rather than referring people to it, which I am not certain they would actually open it. Some colleague bloggers, Obed Sarpong and Edward Tagoe, have responded to this reportage. The story has several inaccuracies but these had already been pointed out by these two bloggers. I would want to tackle the mere idea of leaving ones country with a prejudiced mind to have confirmed what one has heard and seen much too often on the news and in the newspapers. To do this, I would kindly employ, at least virtually, the author of Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun and The Thing Around Your Neck, Chimamanda Adichie to do it for me as I can hardly say it any better. Kindly listen to this and if you have already listened to this, you can listen again.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Orange Prize for Fiction 2011 Shortlist

The Orange Prize for Fiction has announced its shortlist for the 2011 prize. From the long-list of 20 books written by women, the shortlist is made up of 6 books from different parts of the world. The number of African women authors have also dropped from 3 to 1: The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna. Below is the list:
  • Room by Emma Donoghue 
  • The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna
  • Grace Williams Says it Loud by Emma Henderson
  • Great House by Nicole Krauss
  • The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht
  • Annabel by Kathleen Winter
Click here for the full announcement. We wish Aminatta Forna well in this award.

Ayi Kwei Armah featuring The Invasion of Africa Part Two

Some have described Ayi Kwei Armah as an alienated figure. Some have described some of his books as sick. Others say it is impregnable and woody. Yet, no one has questioned his intelligence. If there is any writer whose works are as important today as they were when they were published, if there be any writer whose words rang through in the fourteenth century and ring true in the twenty-first century; if there be such a writer then it definitely IS Ayi Kwei Armah. From The Beautyful Ones are Not Yet Born to The Healers - sticking to those I have read - the themes he speaks about still prevail.

Yesterday, we were told that French Forces have arrested Laurent Gbagbo and most Africans went gay just as the West went gay. To most Africans, the Devil has been caught by the forces. Note that France and the UN has tried dissociating themselves from the arrest though most news channels, including the initial report from the BBC, reported that this infamous arrest was led by the French Special Forces. There are some questions we would have to answer ourselves: Why was the world so quick to jump to conclusion that Ouattara has won the election when the results itself was contested? Why was the results announced in the same hotel that housed Ouattara and his rebels led by Soro? Could the electoral commissioner have been able to announce any other results apart from a win for Ouattara when he was in their hotel surrounded by their forces? Did the world jump in the Bush-Al-Gore disputed results and the 'problem of Florida' or did they quickly proclaim Al-Gore the winner of the results? Did Al-Gore announced himself the president after the court declared him the loser? Does the French Forces love the Ivorians so much as to spend  all these money just to bring peace? What interest does France has in imposing a leader who himself has been accused by the Red Cross Society for atrocities against civilians, just like Gbagbo, on the people of Cote d'Ivoire? What do they stand to gain?

These are questions whose answers bring to mind Ayi Kwei Armah's novels Two Thousand Seasons and The Healers. The conditions that led to the slave trade and the rule of the colonialists in Africa still exist today. Today we still have the likes of Otumfur, Ababio, and Edusei who in search of cowries or morsels or crumbs to fill their paunches sing praises to flatter their kings; schemes to overthrow their leaders; kill to survive. We still have Koranche, that 'empty, strutting fool, suffered to strut this way only because of ... social conventions' and those types of Asante kings who 'succumb for fear of losing their positions'. The Invaders always rely on these individuals to front their course. Now the French have invaded Cote d'Ivoire and the president has been arrested. Let's ask 'is it possible for any African country to invade France when they realise they are having election irregularities?'

Ayi Kwei Armah in these two novels fittingly described these events. Armah talked about how some Africans became zombies and askaris fighting for the Destroyers and the Ostentatious Cripples. He talked of how these imposed chiefs were given 'clothes of colour so bright to fascinate children's eyes set in adult heads' so that they bowed to the wishes of the Destroyers. So that they handed over our lands to them. Again they have come in offering presidency (just as they offered kingship) to anyone who would help them access the resources of the land (just as they came for the land the people).

There are those who point accusing fingers at these at the Gbagbos  and say 'if they had left there would not have been any problem'; 'the African is power drunk' and more. These individuals, mostly Africans, in their analyses ask these questions to justify foreign invasion. So I ask again, should similar problems arise in other Western countries, could we intervene with our military and uproot the sitting president and impose the one we feel can do the work? The problem in Cote d'Ivoire has just began. It would not end because Gbagbo has been arrested. It would not end because the French want a stooge president: one who would offer free access to resources and foreign reserve because they have refused to keep it in France as was agreed in colonial times, just before independence. And like in Armahs novels, these things are done with full complicity of Africans.

Yet, Armah offers hope. There are Healers like Damfo and Densu, those with knowledge about the path to The Way - Our Way - like Isanusi, the present day young Africans who see through Western tactics, who are working tirelessly to find the Way, to Heal the people. There are those watching and connecting the dots; for how is it understandable that one is deemed a socialist when one thinks about his people but another refers to this same 'thinking about his people' as patriotism? And Armah concedes that the Healing, the finding of the Way, would not take a day, a year or even a century to achieve. But the heart-warming issue is that it shall be achieved.

For those Otumfur, Edusei and Koranches of Africa, those who make statements such as 'Africans are this .. Africans are that...'; those who think that by aligning themselves with them they aren't Africans, know that the disgrace of the crocodile is the shame of the alligator, that when it affects the mouth it affects the nose. Except when they have magically de-melanised themselves, but until then whatever happens include you.

These happenings, these occurrences, these blatant disregard for the sovereignty of African states, is what Ayi Kwei Armah wrote about. He has shown that his thinking horizon is broader than most of these individuals who have spoken harshly against him.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Glen Retief: Homoeroticism and the Failure of African Nationalism in Ayi Kwei Armah's The Beautyful Ones

I am not a 'formal' student of Literature. In fact I cannot, in no other way, call myself a student of Literature, formal or informal for I read novels to enjoy them first, reflect on the second and connect the dots later. These latter two always occur way after the novels have been read. Sometimes months or even years. In fact I still think about novels I read as far back as 2005. Hence, I am the last person to make a critique, academically, a novel or even read research articles based on literary writings. I am scared. My training is in Agricultural Economics and I stay with it.

However, I was browsing the net and accidentally found this article. Because I have not access to the main article I could only read the abstracts. From what I could glean from the abstract, Ayi Kwei Armah's Novel The Beautyful Ones are Not yet Born, is a subtle or subliminal way of telling Africans to embrace same-sex desire and human rights for sexual minorities. The Abstract:
Building on the work of Stewart Crehan, Joshua D. Esty, and others, this paper "queers" Armah's canonical novel of disillusionment with the African nation state, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, by tracing sublimated and explicit expressions of homoerotic desire through the text. The protagonist's scatology is seen not just as a metaphor for the postcolonial predicament, but also as a psychological defense mechanism holding at bay a taboo form of sexual expression—a desire implicit in the protagonist's self-sacrificing and profound love for Koomson. Reread this way, The Beautyful Onesis understood as an allegory for the need for African nationalism to embrace same-sex desire and human rights for sexual minorities. By Glen Retief (Research in African Literature - Volume 40, Number 3, Fall 2009, pp. 62-73)
I have never attributed this highly-acclaimed novel to sexual minority or the need to embrace it. Consequently, I would be searching for and reading the full article so we could discuss this properly her. But in the interim, do you think such an association could be part of Armah's thought-processes in writing this novel? Or is it simply an association a researcher is making based on his own readings?
I can't access the document. It's limited and I would be glad if anyone who gets it could share it with me at freduagyeman(AT)yahoo(DOT)com. Thanks

Proverb Monday

Proverb: ɔdεnkyεm ne pitire na εda, nso ɔfom no a, ɔka no.
Translation: The crocodile and the catfish sleep together, but when the latter offends the crocodile (literally, if it offends it), it bites it.
Usage: Living together does not mean you will always agree. This proverb is similar to one which when translated reads: even the teeth and the tongue do quarrel.
No. 1802  in Bu me Bε by Peggy Appiah et al.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

What do You Look for in Your Reading

What do you look for in your read? Is it plot, theme, message or the characters? Or even the setting? What is it that makes you love a book, fiction or non-fiction? Some books are heavy on plot others are filled with beautiful prose. Those that have both are read again and again. If given the chance to choose a book that you would read on your death bed, which book would it be?

Friday, April 08, 2011

Quotes for Friday from Toni Morrison's Beloved

There are some beautiful quotes in Beloved. In fact the whole novel, baring its length, is quotable. Just open to any portion and you would encounter some fine reading. Enjoy the following:

124 was spiteful. Full of a baby's venom. (Page 3)

My first-born. All I can remember of her is how she loved the burned bottom of bread. Can you beat that? Eight children and that's all I remember. (Page 5)

If a Negro got legs he ought to use them. Sit down too long, somebody will figure out a way to tie them up. (Page 10)

To Sethe the future was a matter of keeping the past at bay (Page 41)

...they killed the flirt whom folks called Life for leading them on. Making them think the next sunrise would be worth it; that another stroke of time would do it last. Only when she was dead would they be safe. The successful ones - the ones who had been there enough years to have maimed, mutilated, maybe even buried her - kept watch over the others who were still in her cock-teasing hug, caring and looking forward, remembering and looking back.  (Page 109)

Nowadays babies get up and walk soon's you drop em, but twenty years ago when I was a girl, babies stayed babies long. (Page 159)

He knew exactly what she meant: to get to a place where you could love anything you choose - not to need permission for desire - well now, that was freedom. (Page 162)

Very few people had died in bed, like Baby Suggs, and none that he knew of, including Baby, had lived a livable life. Even the educated colored: the long-school people, the doctors, the teachers, the paper-writers and businessmen had a hard row to hoe. In addition to having to use their heads to get ahead, they had the weight of the whole race sitting there. You needed two heads for that. Whitepeople believed that whatever the manners, under every dark skin as a jungle. Swift unimaginable waters, swinging screaming baboons, sleeping snakes, red gums ready for their sweet white blood. (Page 198)

In a way they were right. The more coloredpeople spent their strength trying to convince them how gentle they were, how clever and loving, how human, the more they used themselves up to persuade whites of something Negroes believed could not be questioned, the deeper and more tangled the jungle inside grew. But it wasn't the jungle blacks brought with them to this place from the other (livable) place. It was the jungle whitefolks planted in them. And it grew. It spread. (Page 198)

Beloved, she my daughter. She mine. She come back to me of her own free will and I don't have to explain before because it had to be done quick. Quick. She had to be safe and I put her where she would be. But my love was tough and she back now. I knew she would. (Page 200)

I couldn't lay down with you then. No matter how much I wanted to. I couldn't lay down nowhere in peace, back then. Now I can. I can sleep like the drowned, have mercy. She come back to me, my daughter, she is mine. (Page (204)

Beloved is my sister. I swallowed her blood right along with my mother's milk. The first thing I heard after not hearing anything was the sound of her crawling up the stairs. (Page 205)

I am Beloved and she is mine. I see her take flowers away from leaves she puts them in a round basket and the leaves are not for her she fills the basket  she opens the grass I would help her but the clouds are in the way how can I say things that are pictures I am not separate from her there is no place where her face is and to be looking at it too a hot thing. (Page 210)

Remembering his own price, down to the cent, that schoolteacher was able to get for him, he wondered what Sethe's would have been. What had Baby Suggs's been? How much did Halle owe, still, besides his labor? What did Mrs Garner got for Paul F? More than nine hundred dollars? How much? Ten dollars? Twenty? School teacher would know.

You your best thing, Sethe. You are. (Page 273)

By and by all trace is gone, and what is forgotten is not only the footprints but the water too and what it is down there. The rest is weather.  (Page 275)

Read the review here.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

73. Beloved by Toni Morrison

In Beloved (1987) Toni Morrison expanded the possibilities of the fiction genre from that which she created in Song of Solomon. She redefined the boundaries, broadening the horizon so as to write a story of stellar attribute with depth, passion, and a sensibility no other writer can express except Morrison. It is as if the words, scenes, sentences, speech and sense-making were being drawn from a well she only could see the bottom.

In this novel, different writing styles merged, swirled and that which came forth was of a uniform consistency that bespeak a master artist. For instead of the different writing styles veering the reader off the course, jarring his mind, throwing him here and there till he dizzied, they supported each other, strengthened the storyline and conveyed the essence of the write to the reader.

As a mix of omniscient narratives, point-of-view narratives from different characters and first person narratives, with the pendulum swinging between the past and the present - flashbacks was used to carry the story - Beloved tells of a woman, Sethe, who at the point of being recaptured into slavery by the very man - Schoolteacher - and to the very place - Sweet Home - she had escaped from at a time when slavery has been somewhat abolished, killed her already-crawling daughter to avoid capture and prevent her going through what she had gone through. Released from prison custody, through the efforts of the Bodwins, Sethe and her other daughter Denver, erected a tombstone on the grave of the already-crawling daughter with the inscription Beloved, for she had not enough money to pay the engraver to write fully the first two words the preacher had almost always used at church 'Dearly Beloved' and the daughter had not a name.

Considered as weird, Sethe withdrew from society and society also withdrew from her. For whereas Sethe considered whatever she did as love, the black community deemed it strange and wrong. Deserted by her two sons - Howard and Buglar - Sethe lived a hermit life with Denver until Paul D, a man she grew up with at Sweet Home, a man she thinks she knows, a man who is the half-brother of her husband - Halle - arrived at 124. Paul D reawakened the life in her, sacked Beloved's ghost that was haunting the house and had made Denver friendless. Everything was working until Stamp Paid, the man who had helped Sethe cross the river whilst escaping from Sweet Home to Baby Suggs (Halle's mother) at 124, showed and read to Paul D, the news article about the murder. And Paul D also left 124 but not until Beloved had appeared in flesh, perhaps to exact her retribution on the woman who kept her on the other side with 'nothing to breathe down there and no room to move in.' or perhaps to reclaim her love.

This is a strangely moving story that tells of the history of African Americans in the period just after the abolishment of slavery. It uses the life of one individual and her love to represent, not entirely but to some appreciable extent, the height and depth of suffering these class of Americans went through. It does not try to elicit pity from the reader. It is presented as it is for Sethe never pitied herself.

One could feel a lot going on in this novel. Some events, like the rape of Sethe, which was described as the taking away of her milk, the beatings she received at the hands of Schoolteacher that was described as chokeberry in blossoms by Paul D, were only talked about but never mentioned directly and this style of writing teases the reader to reason, forces him to imagine what's going on. In effect the reader becomes an extension of the novel.

Just as it is in Song of Solomon, in Beloved realism and surrealism merge at a point that is difficult to define or stake out. That the reader does not know if what the character is seeing is real or not an example being the beautiful conversation between Denver and Beloved:
"Why do you call yourself Beloved?"
Beloved closed her yes. "In the dark my name is Beloved."
Denver scooted a little closer. "What's it like over there, where you were before? Can you tell me?"
"Dark," said Beloved. "I'm small in that place. I'm like this here." She raised her head off the bed, lay down on her side and curled up.
Denver covered her lips with her fingers. "Were you cold?"
Beloved curled tighter and shook her head. "Hot. Nothing to breathe down there and no room to move in."
"You see anybody?"
"Heaps. A lot of people is down there. Some is dead." (Page 75)
Again, did the entourage who set forth for 124 to relieve Sethe from the bewitchment they thought she was under see Beloved? Was she real to them? Did she actually fly off? And this reminds of Macon Dead in Song of Solomon.

This is a must read from the Nobelist. It could easily be a text book for an advanced course in writing. I deeply enjoyed this novel. To end this I would quote a piece of what Sethe thought of Beloved:
Beloved, she my daughter. She mine. See. She come back to me of her own free will and I don't have to explain before because it had to be done quick. Quick. She had to be safe and I put her where she would be. But my love was tough and she back now. I knew she would be. Paul D ran her off so she had no choice but to come back to me in the flesh. I bet you Baby Suggs, on the other side, helped. (Page 200)

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Myne Whitman's Second Novel, A Love Rekindled

Myne Whitman, the popular Nigerian author whose debut novel, A Heart to Mend, received great reviews and praise, has released her second novel titled A Love Rekindled. Over the years Myne has established herself as a writer of love stories; in this way she is filling a gap in the literary culture of Nigeria and Africa as a whole. And even though she wouldn't consider herself as an avant-garde in this genre, her vision is to remain in it and become a foremost brand name, a worthy aspiration and an achievable one coming from one who has read Mills and Boon and has been influenced by a wide variety of writers both home and abroad including the likes of Cyprian Ekwensi, Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, Chinua Achebe, Barbara Cartland, Francine Rivers, and recently, Chimamanda Adichie.

From the Blurb:
Efe returns to Nigeria after years in the United States, dreaming of an uncomplicated life. However, her nights become plagued by nightmares of Kevwe Mukoro, her ex-fiancé. Long hours at work and drinking in nightclubs only provide temporary relief, and when she encounters Kevwe's twin brother, she knows it's a matter of time before Kevwe is back in her life.

Sparks fly when they finally meet again, but desire is no match for bitter memories of heartbreak. All these years, Efe believed she was rejected; now Kevwe claims he'd never stopped loving her. Stuck at a crossroads, Kevwe prefers to look to the future, but Efe is not so sure. Can the traumatic events of the past be resolved, and will she give in to rekindled love?

This promises to continue and elevate the excite that began with A Heart to Mend. The author has agreed to continue the interview we had last year when she released his debut novel. Below is an embedded youtube video-trailer of the book (and this happens to be the first video I have embedded in any of my post). 

A Love Rekindled is available from the following outlets:
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