Nqobile: The Story of Becoming

What does the world look like through a foreign student’s eyes ?

What happens when, while going to the Promised Land, you find not the dream you had in mind, but much more and in a much more different form ?

Thus begins Mandhla Mgijima alias Sipho’s novel, like a modern fairy tale : the young Nqobile goes to South Africa, then to America. He likes English-language fiction, befriends white men; he is young and enthousiastic and sees the world as he wished it to be.

Nqobile had successfully forged another relation with white people, an achievement that made him silently proud. Internally, he was glowing. This was something he had managed to do seamlessly throughout his private high school with its white majority. He understood them well and held as a rule that mostly good came out of relations with white folk, and so he had made it a habit of actively engaging with them, especially at his American university.” (p.21)

Then comes the time when he gradually becomes more politically-aware and discovers the complex faces of the American society. The novel constantly refers to contemporary events (the campaigns #Blacklivesmatter in the United States and #Rhodesmustfall in South Africa, the terrorist attacks in Paris) and personalities, like Steve Biko- yet the profound meaning of the narrative lies elsewhere : this realistic scenery is home to a modern tale about how the notions of white and black shape our imagination, our judgement on people and our projects.

The book traces Nqobile’s transformation from an admirer of white men to a man fully aware of himself who has created his own philosophy on race, acceptance and life priorities. It is through the character of Nolwazi, Sipho’s South African publisher, that we learn how Nqobile reaches this awareness. It is also through her eyes that we learn how power relations work in everyday life between students of different countries and cultures. It is, finally, an image of what anyone could achieve if one stopped speaking in the name of truths one doesn’t really believe in.

Nqobile: The Story of Becoming by Mandla Mgijima

ISBN : 978-0- 7974- 8760- 4

Publisher : David Kaplan, Freelanceeditors.co.za , 2016

Review by Ioana Danaila


Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She has published short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish and teaches English to high school students in France

The Day Ends Like Any Day

In 1990s Nige9781910688298ria, Sam, a young man, begins his life’s journey in O. situated east of Port Harcourt; as the “lazy stroller” he calls himself, he moves constantly in and out of the text in a cinematographic way. He introduces us to Pa Suku, Ma Ike, Ricia, Dora, Osagie, Margaret and all the other characters that mark his path. From the small crowded flat in which he lives with his family to the Delta State University in Abraka he later attends, Sam’s excursion through life guides the reader through past (the Biafran war and some events occuring back then) and present (President Sani Abacha’s years).

Timothy Ogene’s beautiful novel is a new form of Bildungsroman, in which the theme of coming of age becomes a coming of language: Sam’s story is also a journey through books and memories, so much so that a life’s journey is not only oriented forwards, but also backwards.

Like Sam, the reader is constantly going back and forth to the past through words and the images and sometimes the physical sensations they leave in our lives. As the title suggests, the days become not a flow of time-limited sequences, but an eternal present that shrinks or expands through the power of our own mind.

Ogene revisits the age-old theme of identity and transposes it into a world in which identities are constantly rooted out to be planted elsewhere, both never really free from their native soil and enriched by the foreign adoptive soils. The founding encounters in Sam’s life are also the encounters with his own past and his old self, now reshaped and revisited by the passing of time and the inevitable questioning of what life actually means:

Old Jumbo’s flowers were not as unkempt as I remember them. (…) State School One was east of the blocks. But in my head, in my recollection, it is positioned west. What else do I misremember? (…) It does not matter anymore. I remember what I remember, or what I consistently made myself remember. We are, indeed, wired to remember in twos: duplicates and originals. The original loses its composition the farther away we are from it.” (p.145)

The Day Ends Like Any Day by Timothy Ogene

978-1-910688-29-8  | Holland House | 2017

Review by Ioana Danaila


Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She has published short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish and teaches English to high school students in France