“Mr Batwala was a well-known drunkard in his village. He was fond of stroking his goatee and he was seated in his office listening to coffee prices on the BBC World Service. He wanted to find out the level of prices; if they were good, he would continue to open the farm and if they were bad or low, he would need to find drastic ways to continue running the farm but that would be unacceptable to his workers. He would continue trading employing many people in the village.”
Who would have thought that Mr Batwala, a freed slave, would go to Africa and set up a coffee farm ? Who would have thought that this enterprise would only be the start of a series of adventures in which his creed and his oratory skills would come out ?
In this novel whose style is quite similar to a folk tale, David Ssembajjo sets the portrait of a remarkably original character : from his drinking problem to the following tragic events, Mr Batwala has to move on and keep his farm going.
The sometimes dystopic atmosphere of the novel, the collective delusions and uprisings, the rhythmic and yet sobre language illustrate the journey of a man who, freed from slaevery, must then make his life through the dramatic events that occur on his way.
David Ssembajjo’s novel is written as a political fable with philosophical accents. Mr Batwala, a classical figure of the self-made man, is a brilliant orator : his speeches, mesmerizing for the audience, display the character’s belief in human rights and values as well as the art of rhetoric. The religious tone of these argumentations makes Mr Batwala something of a spiritual guide for his village, even if his authority in the coffee farm is sometimes controversial, even disliked, by his workers.
A tale of freedom and the enslavement of vice, of hope and faith, of a visionary man and his dream.
Mr Batwala’s Farm by David Ssembajjo
ISBN : 978-1528929431 (Paperback)
Published by Austin MacCauley Publishers Ltd (2019)
Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She has a PhD in Nigerian postcolonial literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She is also the author of a collection of short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. Trilingual in Romanian, French and English, she teaches English language and literature to highschool students in France.