Wednesday 19 September 2012

"The Ghost of Sani Abacha" by Chuma Nwokolo

I won’t cloy the fact; this collection of short stories is as bad as it is compelling. This is really bad for the book. A good editor could have precluded this. This collection of short stories certainly lacked one. Chuma takes so much into insignificant overdrive. Some of the stories make undesirable efforts to impress. You are fascinated as you are bored to hell. I am becoming wary of collections of too many short stories. In The Ghost of Sani Abacha, there are twenty-six short stories in all, twenty-six stories that dazzle and confuse at almost the same pace. I left this book for some time and read other books in between. But when I eventually got done with it, I was somewhat satisfied I went at it. This collection is a muddle mix of varying abilities. While some stories question Chuma’s artistry, others are excellent picks. By inference, this collection is a trajectory of Chuma’s writing soundness, and that could be frustrating too. Why should a reader be saddled with the painful task of this venture; observing how an author’s writing productively progresses in a book? A reader can only forgo little indulgences of a writer, but when they are spread too far in a book, the book is a failure. This collection is good but also disappointing.

More subtle and yet profound is Chuma’s use of humour. He is so good at that. A short story is a compressed version of narrative complexity, often ending in a twist of a reader’s expectation. The Ghost of Sani Abacha is a mix of both the short story twist and a satisfactory use of humour. This collection touches everyday perfunctoriness and tells them refreshingly. It plays with everyday usualness in a colourful way. Truth be known, though there is a showiness of exaggerated expressions in some, a more others are productive.

Even the title itself catches your attention, glancing at it gives you a preconceived opinion. However, only a few of the pieces are politically inclined. The Ghost of Sani Abacha is a narrative of misshapen pasts and the presents surrounding our societal ills. In the book, gluttony plays a major role. The manner gluttony is knitted into the stories are quite impressive.

These Wrenches the Collection

I wonder what importance these stories hold in this collection. They are some of the pieces that wrench the collection gruesomely. They bled the collection of whatsoever strength it commands. I disapprove of them for taking the edge off the book. These are just some of them;

{The Colour of It} I struggle to understand the purposefulness of this piece. It is really that awful. Anyone that writes in this manner surely puts his book on a suicide mission. This is how not to write a short story. What could be passed in a beautiful simplicity is overburdened with highfalutin embellishment. This piece regresses itself into irredeemable unclearness. This piece is carelessly trying.

Consider this excerpt from the short story;

“For now I sit on my final island of the present as my radius of memory shrinks… Other islands fade as I brood upon them: Ruma. Fifty years of marriage and a rose-red eruption blends with yellow apology and steel-blue divorce to yield the russet harvest of terminal cervical cancer… I focus away from Ruma… except the brilliant cinematograph of Aka’s birth…” (pg. 138)

And then this;

“Her voice is a slow, inky citrine. A year passes between the utterance of each nuanced word. Afterwards, the silence continues forever… Ruma’s subterranean island rams my shore with a malevolent judder – Aka’s icy voice is the temperature of Ruma’s, in that terrible terminal week of our marriage...” (pg. 140)
This kind of expressions rid fluidity off the short story. So many times you are lost, struggling to bring yourself back to the story.

{Orange Crush} This short story is good but a tad winding.

{A Roman Job Offer} The creative use of language nearly allows Chuma to pull this off. What lets down its quality is the quick shunt to the stereotypic. It embeds the sex trafficking nicely but gives a fixed description of a sexual trafficker. A sexual trafficker could wear a different image different from this;

“I knew a few people who had been hired by the Recruitment Agent. He stopped at Ikerre-Oti once or twice a year. He… trawled the streets for talent: people strong and hard-working enough to be trained as ‘housekeepers’ and ‘chambermaids’ for foreign hotels”

Some of the Selects

Billy Goat: Gwarimpa’s home is rocky. So when Sara, his wife, flirts with Harki, she crosses the marital borderline. Gwarimpa seeks revenge but also lacks proofs to support his claim. Initially, he has everything alleging his wife’s unfaithfulness but they soon slip away from him. His last hope is in Billy Goat’s tommy.

Gluttony:  This is one of pure gluttony cutting through misplaced religiosity. Not even Pastor Dogo’s sermons can stop the gluttony of these Waterside’s dwellers. When a whale suddenly appears at the shore, everybody hacks out more than his fill. However, their excesses soon catch up with them. This is a satirical swipe at our present society, with its hypocrisy and poverty combined.

The Las’ Foolscap: The more successful pieces of this collection are those written in our English creole. Their messages are direct and straight. Rashi’s husband kills his wife, Rashi. In prison, his medium of closure is the foolscap sheets. With it, he hopes his children absolve him for killing their mother as he states the reasons for his action. The ultimate fear is primarily not the murder that has been committed as it is with the shortage of foolscap sheets.

A History of Human Servitude: After 30 unfruitful years of John Jeff’s servitude, nobody will know how he comes to own a BMW new series. And he never steals it, he owns it. If not anything, decades of servitude teach him how to own a BMW without paying for it.

Urban Architecture: Fate gets upturned and he becomes a toilet-roll supplier to a government hospital. The more the shits, the more he gets to supply and the better for his housing project. In building his exquisite house, he buys his discomforts too. Money and (dis)comfort; shits and money.

Read this collection if you can, there are a lot more going on in it.

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