My Thoughts on ‘The Whispering Trees’ by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim

This is one of five posts on the Caine Prize for African Writing 2013 Shortlist. A group as organised by Aaron Bady will be blogging about the entries (one per week) for five weeks until the prize is announced on the 8th of July. Please see the links below for details and a schedule.

My Thoughts on ‘The Whispering Trees’ by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim

By Veronica Nkwocha

The story opens with a tragedy; the protagonist is involved in an accident and loses his beloved mother. He is at first protected from this knowledge having lost consciousness for a period until he finds himself in hospital.

The Whispering Trees’ happened in stages; as though they were five stories woven into one. The ‘Accident’, where the faint moments when he merged almost seamlessly with the other world is described in lyrical language. It carried on to the ‘Awareness’ (of his blindness and the knowledge of his permanent separation from Ummi); the ‘Anger’, (during which saint Faulata lifted the heavy load). The ‘Limbo’ (where the malam had to carry out a ritual) and then the ‘Awakening’ into a quasi-heaven much longed for at the start of the story.

The bruising of Salim’s soul from the moments of the accident was instant and it never got better. Apart from the brief period when he tried; studying braille, weaving baskets and waiting for Faulata. His pain was described in detail taking over more than half of the story. It didn’t detract from the essence because one comes away with a deep understanding of how much his loss impacted him. (Some questions linger; in reality would Salim’s schooling end with just one month to graduating from Medical school?)

The second bruising where Faulata left him to marry someone else sheared off the scab of the wound and pierced another knife. This time, he did not lose consciousness as with the accident but appeared to enter into a trance; as though the first unconsciousness was a twin of this new disappearance from life. It was near identical, like looking in a mirror; the first, a precursor and tangential (more…)

My Thoughts on ‘Foreign Aid’ by Pede Hollist

*This is one of five posts on the Caine Prize for African Writing 2013 Shortlist. A group as organised by Aaron Bady will be blogging about the entries (one per week) for five weeks until the prize is announced on the 8th of July. Please see the links below for details and a schedule.

My Thoughts on ‘Foreign Aid’ by Pede Hollist 

By Veronica Nkwocha

The story ‘Foreign Aid’ is about fissures caused by the uprooting of the principal character Balogun from Sierra Leone to America. The chasm widens with his long sojourn in his new home away from his roots where he had lived up until his mid-twenties.

The man we meet in America is one of many people, one of a crowd. We learn about his stay in a few paragraphs; he was generic, unobtrusive and inconsequential. The twenty years passed in a blur of the many things people like him did; coloured phone cards to call home, failed promises to his loved ones at home and furtive marriages for the all-important green card.

He “..submerged himself in inner-city America. He flipped burgers, cleaned office buildings, and worked security for cantankerous residents in a variety of elder-care facilities—pursuing the American dream, unskilled, undocumented, and with an accent…

Even though life got in the way of his dreams, he still found his level like waters after escaping their hold. He didn’t get the Economics degree but he became documented, had a job and was driven in his goal to survive the ever changing urban jungle he had found himself in.

Balogun spoke clipped and fustian; adapting his language to a degree, to that of his inner city surroundings. A (more…)

My Thoughts on ‘Miracle’ by Tope Folarin

*This is one of five posts on the Caine Prize for African Writing 2013 Shortlist. A group as organised by Aaron Bady will be blogging about the entries (one per week) for the next five weeks until the prize is announced on the 8th of July. Please see the links below for details and a schedule.

My Thoughts on ‘Miracle’ by Tope Folarin 

By Veronica Nkwocha

‘Miracle’ (read herebegins with an all too familiar tale in the diaspora, a people uprooted and fragmented leaning close together huddling with the familiar. The thread that binds them in this story is religion and its ‘familiar’ rituals of service. The particular service presents an extreme focus on a man at the apex and a shivering pool of the faithful expectant of the heady feelings that herald a shared knowing as to their wholesomeness.

A most fascinating attribute about the story lies in the things it doesn’t say. ‘Miracle’ presents the congregants as almost child-like. Like a group of uniform wearing kids sitting up straight jacketed in class afraid of breaking any of the many rules, whether written or unspoken. The service is orgasmic but even when they dance happily and ecstatic, they do so in tandem with the dictates of an unseen conductor.

It is a church service and the supernatural typically trumps the physical, a spring where the faithful can draw strength to face the tough world outside. (Edit) It’s everyone doing the same thing lost in an ‘other-worldliness’  that creates an unsettling feeling, is that how its adherents are really perceived from the outside looking in?

Here wishes and desires take a front seat before reality; hope is worn leaving the dress of truth behind. The eyes of the boy were not healed but the glasses were cast aside. Is that faith? Will he see with perfect clarity? As the (more…)