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eforiro

There is this magic that happens when poets write prose.

Something about the freedom that poetry allows. Those flights of fancy, poetic license, loosening of strict grammatical rules and the rather ironic restrictions to the use of words which help create an all-round tighter prose output.

The brilliant poet and novelist Caoilinn Hughes in her June 2018 essay in GRANTA “When Poets Write Novels” summarizes it neatly as thus: It’s not just the sentences – though me-o-my, the sentences! – it’s the sensibility. When poets turn their hands to prose, those hands might well belong to Midas. In the best of these novels, poetry’s philosophy, acuity and truth-seeking are carried over into the prose.

I thus approached the reading of Efo Riro and other stories, the collection of stories by Iquo DianaAbasi with a certain kind of expectation. Besides the title – a rich vegetable delicacy of Western Nigerian origin – which very easily could make one salivate in anticipation, the author herself is a poet and remarkably, her 2013 collection of poems Symphony of Becoming was shortlisted for the Nigeria Prize for Literature among other such accolades. I can say quite frankly that I was not disappointed.

Efo Riro and other stories brings together 19 short stories all of which are set primarily in Nigeria and cover a range of themes and contemporary human-interest issues that form a chunk of our daily realities as Nigerians. From domestic abuse, love, heart breaks and social media shenanigans to mysterious disappearances, polygamy, abortion, betrayal and post-partum depression. And as diverse as the themes are, so are the characters as well as the literary devises Iquo employs in serving each narrative, presenting in the whole a complete package, enough to tantalize your literary palate.

A quick look at a few of the stories will be apt to paint a general picture. The opening story Efo Riro from which the collection derives its title is told completely in pidgin English. The humour laden story of the driver of a red Venza which grew wings in broad day light is an ode to the beauty in our pidgin English and a peep into what it can be used to achieve in contemporary Nigerian fiction writing.

Your Tongue is Fettered is about the twist in the tale of a ritual to revive a sick husband. In E-Pals, the daily gossip threads we are often regaled with on twitter comes to life, showcasing what love and lust feels like in the age of the internet.

Read full review here in the Lagos Review

mmirinzo

“She was in her room but in another place. Asleep yet awake, and it wasn’t the first time”

In case the title and the cover design (which I think was brilliant) had not sufficiently made it clear, those opening lines from Achalugo Ezekobe’s debut novel Mmirinzo drives in a realization that this was not going to be your regular tale. And without being so forceful on your imagination, they set the stage for what I will describe as a fantasy novel inspired by Igbo metaphysics, specifically the ability of certain persons to control rain.

Olivia was born an Mmirinzo, a special breed of rainmakers who are rain in themselves, wielding the power to control water, and manifest dual presence through their dreams. The display of this unique gift is nothing short of what today’s Pentecostal driven Christianity will refer to as being possessed by marine spirits and so Olivia who was completely oblivious of such a heritage, thought when she first began to experience those blackouts that teleported her to strange ceremonies as both a spectator and an active participant.

With her twenty-eight birthday approaching, Olivia, a young, intelligent lawyer who was keen on developing herself into a great Alternate Dispute Resolution counsel had many things on her mind. There was her younger sister, Nwanneka’s impending wedding which came with the pressure and unsolicited pity, if not shame, from a society that expects the finding of love and life partners to follow the order of birth. There was also the expected announcements of promotions at the law firm where she worked and her efforts to deliver on a case she was handling as a ticket to the game.

The trances which besiege her existence, upending her life as she knew it and causing embarrassing scenes with no medical explanation will sent into motion a series of events leading to Olivia ultimately making that journey to self despite the challenges. And she manages to make it just at the nick of time because the four Igbo market days when lined with the days of the month summed up to twenty eight, the age at which the cosmic has destined that she was to come into her own, with far reaching consequences if she had failed to.

Mmirinzo makes an easy and interesting read. It is a fast paced, and well written effort at magical realism taking place among normal people, living their lives in an otherwise technological driven world. In many ways the work reminded me of Chukwuemeka Ike’s 1985 novel The Bottled Leopard which explored a different aspect of Igbo metaphysics involving the ability of men to acquire the powers of a Leopard. Achalugo very easily marries the daily realities of living in cosmopolitan Lagos today with the magical world of her main character as though they were two sides of a coin, normalizing by so doing, a state of being that would otherwise be seen as…

Read the full review here in The Lagos Review

nancyI recently had a very insightful chat with Nancy Adimora, founding editor of AFREADA who recently joined HarperCollins as ‘Talent and Audience Development Manager’

We talked about many interesting literary and fun stuff including Chimamanda, Biafra, Harry Potter, Aminatta Forna and sleeping 8 hours every night.

Read all about it here in The Lagos Review. See excerpts below:

SNI: AFREADA which you founded is one of the more vibrant platforms publishing African stories from writers across the world. I have had my story published by you and have also read many interesting stories there as well. What was the vision behind AFREADA and what has the experience been like?

NA: We’re in a very interesting season with AFREADA where the vision is in the process of evolving. I started the platform with no experience in publishing, I had no formal editorial training. I was just a Nigerian girl in north London who was intrigued by an entire continent but couldn’t afford to travel around that entire continent so wanted to explore the possibilities of doing so through stories. I came across an Aminatta Forna quote that says “if you want to know a country, read its writers.” and that really resonated with me because, if you want to get to know the capital city of Botswana, you could open a text book, read scholarly articles, or Google some facts and figures – but if you *really* want to get to know Gaborone, you have to engage with the stories of people who live and work there, even if it’s fictional. This story by Siyanda Mohutsiwa is a beautiful example of that.  So, for a long time travelling through stories has been our vision and it’s been fun for me to get to know the continent through some of the best emerging writers, from Uganda to Guinea Bissau. But now, with a growing team and expansion into creative non-fiction, we’re in the process of re-evaluating our mission statement. We’re exploring a few new ideas, and we’ll be communicating our revised vision in the coming weeks.

SNI: Wow. That’s interesting to know and I guess this is a TLR exclusive. LOL. Tell me from your experience and the submission you receive, what’s your assessment of the state of creative writing by Africans? Alive & well, comatose or just there?

NA: I would say it is alive and well – without a shadow of a doubt. What I see in our submissions inbox is a lot of enthusiasm. Accessibility is key for us, so our submissions guidelines are intentionally more relaxed than some other journals and publications. We want to encourage everyone to feel like their stories are worth being read and reviewed, and the quality of our submissions is a reflection of that decision. So, whilst we get a lot of submissions from new writers who probably need more time to hone their skills, we also get a lot of exceptional submissions from writers who are a little further in their creative journeys as well. So I’d say our submissions inbox is broad, in terms of quality, but it definitely fills me with a lot of optimism.

SNI: Talking about our writing being alive and well, we recently lost one of our writing greats, Prof Chukwuemeka Ike who influenced a lot of book lovers of my generation. Did you encounter any of his works which you are happy to share briefly about?

NA: It feels crazy to say, but I didn’t know much about Prof Chukwuemeka Ike before his death. I had heard his name a couple of times, but the first time I really engaged with him wasn’t through his writing, but through a documentary called “In the Shadow of Biafra” that was screened in London last month. The film explored how creative writers grappled with the history of the Nigeria-Biafra war. In it, Prof Ike spoke about a number of things – but one part that stood out for me was when he recounted how Igbo people figured out how to refine crude oil during the war. The fact that we built oil refineries is interesting in itself, but I was particularly drawn to how he told the story. I made a note of some of his books when I got home later that evening so I’m definitely going to go back and read some of his work when I get the chance.

Read the the full interview here

 

travellersFleeing violence and political crises in parts of the Middle East as well as poverty and economic challenges in Africa, millions of people have been risking the perilous journey of crossing the Mediterranean sea into Europe.

Many die trying.

In October 2013 for example, over 350 migrants died in a shipwreck off the island of Lampedusa. It was perhaps the worst tragedy of its kind and helped inflame a long-standing discussion among overwhelmed European Union countries on how to handle the surge of migrants.

As the political, diplomatic, economic and even security ramifications of the crisis continues to be a topical issue in the media and in European state capitals, the people at the center of it, their lives, drives, motivations and indeed their humanity is often relegated and rarely on the front burner.

This is what makes Travellers, the latest work from the brilliant Nigerian writer, Helon Habila a very important book as it takes the reader on that journey to Europe and helps us live the migrant experience – drownings at sea and families getting  separated, as they seek asylum, survive dangerous paths, endure anti-immigration protesters, and still manage to keep that very precious human attribute, hope, alive in spite of it all. Habila achieves this more than any journalism reports I have read on these issues could ever manage and perhaps in the process, he gives a peep into what the novel can do today, in advancing contemporary human experiences and expanding social commentary.

His fourth book and the first set outside of his native Nigeria, Habila tells the story of six European migrants and he….

Read the full review here

vcikeChukwuemeka Ike is one of my favourite Nigerian writer. I grew up reading everyone of his works I could find and my dad’s rich collection gifted me almost all of them. He gave us such gems like #ToadsForSupper, #TheChickenChasers, #Expo77, #OurChildrenAreComing amongst many others… News of his passing a few days ago really hit home. So I did an #obit in his honour for #Lagosreview…the writer lives on. Adieu.

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Obituary: Chukwuemeka Ike, Nigerian literary giant, dies at 88 – Sylva Nze Ifedigbo

Chukwuemeka Ike, Nigerian academic, administrator, monarch and prolific writer of international repute whose celebrated works influenced a generation of readers both in Nigeria and beyond and helped shape literary discourse and the reading culture on the continent, has died. He was aged 88.

Media reports indicate the respected writer died following some health challenges for which he had been admitted at the Nnamdi Azikwe University Teaching Hospital Nnewi in December 2019. He was until his death, the traditional ruler of Ndikelionwu in Orumba north local government area of Anambra state, a throne he ascended in 2008.

But the writer lives as he left a body of work, – twelve novels and as many non-fictional texts that the history of post-independence, post-colonial Nigeria will be incomplete without. It is for his fiction that many people outside of the academia would have known Ike for. A master storyteller who is probably not as celebrated as he ought to be by the current generation of readers, Ike belonged to that class of Government College Umuahia and the University College, Ibadan who in many ways started a revolution by telling the story of a continent long misrepresented through western voices and helped build a strong African literary culture that has gone on to produce many great works and accomplished writers.

Motivated by his friend the renowned Chinua Achebe who had published Things Fall Apart in 1958, Ike who had hitherto restricted his writing to short stories in the university journals, published his first novel Toads for Supper in 1965. After that….

Read the full essay here

My Stories

So i decided to gather my short stories published in various journals and sites over time..to put them together in a page. Some of the sites no longer exist and sadly those stories are gone…

Here are those i found. Those included in my 2012 collection The Funeral Did not End have been marked.

Confessions in AFREADA | February 2016

On the Hot Seat in African Writer | January 2010 (TFDNE)

Samia in Thrice Fiction & Parresia Blog | December 2018

Will you hug me again in Brittle Paper | March 2016

The Lunch on Good Friday in Maple Tree Literary Supplement | August 2010 (TFDNE)

The Lunch on Good Friday (Audio) in Pixelhose | September 2013

Dodan Barracks in Nigerians Talk Lit Mag | June 2012

JAMB in Nigerians Talk Lit Mag | November 2013

Epiphanies in ITCH Creative Journal | February 2016

Death on Gimbiya Street in Saraba | February 2010 (TFDNE)

Guilt Trip in Saraba | February 2013 (TFDNE)

The Assembly of the Former Heads in Kalahari Review | December 2014

Tunji’s Proposal in StoryTime | July 2009 (TFDNE)

My Ex in StoryTime | August 2009 (TFDNE)

Call Room in StoryTime | August 2011 (TFDNE)

Memories of Doctor Death in Prick of the Spindle | March 2013

Discussing Lagos at Ake

So i was a guest at the 2018 Ake Art and Book Festival, one of the leading Book festivals on the continent. Learn all about Ake here.

My panel session discussed Lagos: The City of the Future. I had the privilege of sharing the stage with Chibundu Onuzo and Supo Shasore. The session was moderated by Andrew Kelly.

ake.jpg

You can click to watch a recording of the session here. 

Cheers

Another interesting review of my novel: My Mind Is No Longer Here….

Not your normal lady

Book: MY MIND IS NO LONGER HERE
Author: Ifedigbo Nze Sylva
Number of Pages: 312
Publisher: Parresia Publishers

“Have you not heard the saying that the happiest place to be in this country is at the departure lounge of the International Airport?

The above statement, made by Osahon in the book, shows how desperate the average Nigerian youth is to leave the country.

The book is centred on the lives of five young men; Chidi, Haruna, Donatus, Osahon and Yinka, who is the herd of the pack.

Chidi, an undergraduate, meets an old classmate of his who is now wealthy and asks him to show him the way.

Haruna, a doctor in the non-functional health system in Nigeria, gets his hatred for the country triggered by the death of his mother which could have been avoided if things were working as it should.

Donatus, a human anatomy graduate, who is…

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Checkout this new review of my novel by thezyzah…

“The Zyzah”

MY MIND IS NO LONGER HERE

Title: My Mind Is No Longer Here

Author: Ifedigbo Nze Sylva

Publisher: Paressia Publishers Ltd

ISBN: 978-978-55583-2-6

Year: 2018

Genre: Fiction (Crime)

Format : Paperbook

BLURB

4 different young men have their chance to leave Nigeria for a greener pasture (Germany) tied to a man- Yinka. A corrupt, sexist and vain man who wanted to be richer and more powerful at all cost, including using desperate young men for his dirty works.

The four guys. Donatus- a human anatomy graduate working as a photojournalist had just tendered his resignation letter to the company he worked after being owed many months salary.

Haruna- a medical doctor frustrated by the medical practices problems in Nigeria-incessant strike, inadequate facilities and the blind eye of the Government to it all.

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Chidi- A final year student in a Nigeria University dreaming of a greener pasture.

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Osahon-Wanted for alleged murder in Benin, fled to…

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Here, I just came across this review of ‘My Mind Is No Longer Here’.
Left me beaming….

Go get your copy. 😀

The African Book Review

51yakqehhul-_sr6002c315_piwhitestrip2cbottomleft2c02c35_pistarratingfive2cbottomleft2c3602c-6_sr6002c315_sclzzzzzzz_1«  Each time he tried, he fell asleep after a few pages. He stared at it nowand what he saw was the small bookshelf in his childhood home in Enugu whichoverflowed with his father’s books. (…) Filled with this sudden flash of nostalgia, Donatus stretched his arm out and grabbed the book. In his younger years, he would have holed himself up in his room, missing meals and his favourite shows on television until he was done reading it. Tonight, he just wanted something to fill up the time until it was morning. »

In today’s Lagos, four characters are ready to take off to a better place. Donatus, Osahom, Haruna and Chidi prepare to embark for Europe where they will lead the life they daydream about, the life that the rich and influential Yinka promised and arranged for them.

In this four-voiced novel in which the same moment…

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