mercredi 20 août 2008

There is no shortage of African writers, some notable examples being J.M.Coetzee and Andre Brink. One of the newcomers on the literary scene worth watching is Uwem Akpan whose debut book Say You’re One of Them has been reaping rave reviews from critics everywhere. It is a collection of novellas which takes as its primary theme the different experiences of the children of Africa. However these are not gentle children’s tales but rather harrowing tales of poverty, abuse and racial conflict escalating into violent murder. Akpan doesn’t flinch at the gruesome details and instead relates them dispassionately and almost with a clinical detachment. Word to the wise, this book is not for the squeamish. But you’ll be drawn in immediately as I was. From the first story, I realized that this was not going to be an easy read yet the prose is compelling and I was almost unable to surface for air till the last word. There is a masterly grasp of first, the subject matter and second, of the language.
These stories take place all over Africa. From Kenya where a child’s sister turns to prostitution to send him to school and to put food on the table, to Rwanda where the tribal conflict forces parents to do the unimaginable and finally to Nigeria where to my mind, the best story of the collection is set. Luxurious Hearses is by far the longest story in the bunch and can pretty much stand on its own as a novella. What is interesting about this tale is the way it shows a microcosm, through the interaction of the characters , the different aspects of the country itself. All sorts of issues arise and the characters interact in myriad ways with each other. At times they are antagonistic against each other (two women battle for space) at times they band together to come against another (such as when they defend Jubril against the Chief who usurps his seat). When tragedy does befall the principal character, it comes so swiftly that you are left feeling bereft that it could not have been otherwise.
All these stories are heartbreaking in their own way and they bring the desperateness and brutality that are the everyday conditions of these countries in a way that cold hard news doesn’t. If news doesn’t move you, I’m pretty sure these stories will.

Aucun commentaire: