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Archive for June, 2020

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

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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

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