“ Beno and Wali were in the faculty of arts and Sika was studying law. We would spend entire afternoons at Beno’s place remaking the world. A broken world, in fragments scattered on the little low table around which we sat talking, trying to glue together the pieces, the shards of shattered lives and dreams. That was before the riots and the crises that came one after the other, the crises and the outbursts of violence that had begun to reinvent death with a hole in the chest. ”
Only memories are left: violence and broken dreams, crisis and solitude, failed relations and lost friends. This is what the protagonist Ito Baraka keeps bringing up in this long nocturnal meditation on his fight for freedom while distributing fliers during a student manifestation on the university campus. He will be imprisoned, lose some of his friends and forced to name names.
To Ito Baraka, suicide seems the only escape.
Inspired by the tensions between students and the government in the 1990s in the Togolese capital Lomé, between nightmare and musing, madness and serenity, love and fighting, the story of Ito Baraka takes the reader on a journey into the darkest places of the human mind; the voices mingle into a maze of traumatic visions of lost love, a failed writer’s career and appalling solitude, from Togo to Canada.
In this dark universe, in which there is no escape, the references to famous authors such as Beckett, Bohumil Hrabal or Camus are abundant and create a second skin for this tough and sharp novel. It is the author’s way to show us how powerful language is and creativity faced with death, violence and degradation. When despair is inevitable, only poetry and art can save a lost soul.
Ito Baraka’s nocturnal journey into his hellish past is not only hauntingly violent, but also beautifully pictured. Here is a novel from a fine craftsman of language who pays an homage not only to literature and writing, but also to fighting for freedom and humanity.
Descent into Night by Edem Awumey
978-1988449166 / Mawenzi House Publishers (November, 2017)
Review by Ioana Danaila
Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in African Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She published a collection of short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish, and teaches English language and literature to highschool students in France.