Seesaw

“The taxi took a bend on a bridge, turning right.

I shut my eyes again, overcome by a sense of smallness as the buildings rose in their cold confidence. I shrank before them, before the broad road itself, before everything around me, the vast newness that was beginning to impose itself on my senses. I felt the conflicting contraction and expansion of my mind, the force and impact of the new. I was in the new, consciously aware of it, but the new was already throwing me out of control.”

Frank Jasper, a writer from Port Jumbo, Nigeria, is offered a scholarship in the United States to write “the African novel”. If in the beginning he is bewildered by this opportunity, his journey in the New World gradually becomes a synonym of disillusion and will make Jasper fall off love with a very coded society. His journey “in the new” as a metaphor for the Grace Land the United States represent for many foreigners will eventually guide him back to his roots and to a wider and more nuanced vision of life.

In his second novel, Timothy Ogene gives the reader not only a perspective on the United States from the outside, but also an insightful look into the publishing social sphere and its decorum. We can read the work as a metaliterary reflection on writing and on the echo words have on us that Ogene already evokes in his first novel The Day Ends Like Any Day. Through his approach to academic language in his second work, Ogene makes his readers think about what it really means to write in order to be connected to one’s home and to the reality separated from one’s dreams.

If the journey “in the new” is necessary to take distance from one’s own roots and received ideas, it also draws a back and forth movement between one’s past and family ties. A seesaw between then and now, between you and the others, between here and there, between appearances and reality.

Seesaw by Timothy Ogene

9-78-1800-750166 / Swift Press (2021)

img_0478-2

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.

Then a Wind Blew

“Two thousand comrades. Until she was fourteen she had never heard the word ‘comrade’, but now it was everywhere in her life. She remembered clearly the day when she first heard it. A still, bright, sunny day. Her village was quiet and there was a heat haze over the field. (…) Her mother and Kundiso were at one end of the field, talking, hoeing. Nyanye was at the other end. She stretched and looked up into the sky, shading her eyes with her hand. Two big brown birds flew above her. Eagles. Circling, then going away, coming back, circling, going, coming.”

Zimbabwe, guerrila war, late 1970s.

Three women, Susan, Beth and Nyanye, of European and African origins, are caught in a maze of violence, insecurity and loss. Although they have very different backgrounds and lead very different lives, their experiences intertwine and reveal similar paths and very similar suffering caused by human savagery.

Kay Powell tackles a complex and controversial topic because women’s experience of war (rape, torture, pregnancies, childbirth) is less documented in history and literature. As the writer says, “for women, war means loss, fear, waiting, displacement, the destruction of homes, the burden of protecting children and the elderly and feeding them – there are no compensations.” Besides constituting the background of the narrative, war is also almost constructed as a character because it is nuanced, complex and has a universal dimension ; one of the core ideas of the book is that both conflicting parts of the war are equally violent when it comes to human damage.

Then a Wind Blew is a beautiful narrative written in a sober and structured style. Based on true facts, deep reserach work and personal experience, Kay Powell’s writing is a very promising first novel in the line of Doris Lessing’s legacy of writing on Zimbabwe.

Then a Wind Blew by Kay Powell

978-1-77922 / Weaver Press (2021)

img_0478-2

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.

Halcyon Days

“In the evening, Ali was amazed to see lights coming on everywhere at the click of small buttons on the walls! The illumination itself was different from that of the oil lamps used in the village. He marvelled for a long time while his uncle simply smiled. He figured out every house in the environment had such lights. With all the lights turned on, he wondered what the world would look like outside their dwelling. He rushed out to catch a glimpse.”

Ali is an honest hardworking twelve-year old boy who lives in a small Nigerian village. When his uncle Ladi takes him to the city, Ali’s system of values is turned upside down by the ways of the people there. Struggling to fit in, Ali gradually discovers that he is actually trying to change himself.

In this novella, Adewuyi Adeniyi not only explores two different ways of acting in and looking at the world, but also draws a critical portrait of present-day Nigeria : indeed, the contrast between the two worlds, the city and the village, can be seen as a symbol of the gap between a modern society and a more traditional one.

In a clear, simple language, the writer manages to create a story in which the moral and social challenge and the struggle for a better life are part of our daily existence. You may therefore read it as a modern fable where the expression (and the reality behind it) “halcyon days”, or “happy days”, is qualified many a time.

Adewuyi Adeniyi is also known for his short stories reunited in the collection The World is Too Serious With Us.

Halcyon Days by Adewuyi Adeniyi

978-978-57374-7-9 / Acorn Books (first published in 2020)

img_0478-2

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.

Surviving SAJOMACO : A Nigerian Boarding School Odyssey (to be released in August 2021)

“My recollection of events at SAJOMACO is not perfect. It is also predominantly from a boy’s perspective in a mixed school. From the limited conversations I have had with a few of our female classmates, their experiences appeared to be worse. I accept that not everyone will agree with the accounts as I have laid them out or with my perspectives, but I have tried to give a faithful account of the events as much as possible. I excluded some stories because I chose to focus on one theme : survival against the odds.”

Place : West Nigeria, St. John & Mary’s Unity Secondary School (or SAJOMACO). A boarding school known for its strict selection, high level and hard work.

Period : 1990-1996.

Former student Olubunmi Asaolu describes his stay there as a “survival experience” because of some harsh experiences such as underfeeding, modest living conditions, intense intellectual effort, or high pressure from both the teachers and their families.

In this memoir, the author takes the reader on an insightful excursion into the microcosm of the boarding school where many of the social relations are based on competition, authority or domination. The author insists on the “respect culture that doesn’t challenge the excess of our elders because the respect culture is very steep”. This culture was also the basis for the education system in the 1990 Nigeria.

Nevertheless, however tough his experience might have been, Asaolu’s writing remains unjudgmental without lacking distance. The account he gives is much more factual than critical so as to present SAJOMACO as a place that builds character as much as a high academic level, and therefore creates the space for debate.

The characters Asaolu admires most are those who, in his own words, “lived in and were part of the culture but they didn’t go crazy in their disciplining”. Balance, rather than excess, is what the author finally aims at.

A beautifully written memoir that gives the reader a glimpse into the weight and the limits of education and culture.

Surviving SAJOMACO : A Nigerian Boarding School Odyssey by Olubunmi Asaolu

Published by Olubunmi Asaolu (to be released in August 2021)

img_0478-2

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.

TA LE – Book 1:Knowledge

During Kobenan’s two years in the presidency, he has stepped into the presidential office only twice, despite his office door facing Mr. Kone’s. (…) There have been many threatening and delicate situations, but Kobenan usually answers directly to Mr. Kone, so he knows before knocking at the presidential door, where he stands towered over by the two agents, that there must be a crucial situation ahead.

Kobenan works for the secret services of the imagined West African country Côte d’Espérance. His job is envied by many all the more because he is very young and entrusted with the analysis of the S-cell ; this unit is specialized in cases of sorcery and mysticism, and therefore gives him an insight into a realm very few people know, a realm of mystical power.

When he and agent Biafle have to solve a murder that occured in the polticial highlife of the country, they enter a space in which ancestral beliefs create the background of reality.

In this captivating and fast-pacing narrative, Yessoh G. D. creates an African setting both real and magical and, most important, in which boundaries are never clear cut. What separates sorcery from Kobenan’s working office or the governing political elite ? Here Yessoh G. D. revisits the fantasy genre by paying an homage to West African ancestral rites and culture. More than a popular fiction introducing the readers to an exotic land, Yessoh G. D.’s book is an incursion into different levels of power and ways of transgressing reality through imagination. As characters like Old Paapa epitomize the compatibility between these two worlds, maybe fantasy itself, as the writer says it, should not only function as an escape from reality, but “bend more toward the good” while opening a new world to the reader.

The book is also available on Amazon : https://www.amazon.com/TA-L%C4%98-Book-1-Knowledge-ebook/dp/B08YZ8ZD3V/ref=mp_s_a_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=yessoh&qid=1626962777&sr=8-3

Ta Le : Book 1 : Knowledge by Yessoh G.D.

978-1-7775594-1-0 / Library and Archive Canada (March 16, 2021)

img_0478-2

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.

A Tree for the Birds

https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSdOcTOYEbMW7aUA28Rh0Qhja4V2rY8fLyC8erJSX2Iw2qbfYYcvqzs4Aj1uziI1GkPTws&usqp=CAU

“‘You know, Chrisnelt, if you want to see a real tree of truth, the biggest in the City, I should take you to the one at its heart. At the rising place, where all the streets meet all the boulevards in the very middle, where once, long ago, a small clearing held the huts of a village that made its own rain and sunshine. That Christmas tree has lived there for almost one hundred years now. It stands very quietly, only telling the truth at Christmas-time. I call it Africa’s Tree. My own father told me that the city officials back then, the elders from many places and tribes, had met before his birth – in a time of bizarre blizzards, when things were decreed by white people – to plan the careful planting. You see that one, and it’ll help you grow your tree.’

It all begins when Chrisnelt, the main character, loses his dear friend in a terrible accident. In the bleak, grey, huge city he lives in, the little boy starts imagining a world beyond this concrete world with the help of books. A hungry reader, he also starts imagining what the world could be like outside the human-built citadel. With the help of his family and some close friends, he then begins cultivating his own garden, his own oasis of peace and freedom in the midst of an artificial world made of concrete. His Tree, a paradise for birds, becomes not only a metaphor of hope, but also a way of expressing his concern for the future. However, when Pastor Kadazi gets interested in his gardening, the cost of Chrisnelt’s dream Tree may comes with a very high cost.

In this narrative that mixes ancestral African beliefs and envirnomental issues in a poetic language, Vernon Head passes a very strong ecological message for our times. This beautiful story about books, trees, birds and rivers is also an inner journey that helps Chrisnelt heal and (re)connect with the people and the world. Head pays an homage to his African roots and to the vision of the African Kow tribe who believe that nature is central to both community and individual life and to inner balance.

With its sheer fragile beauty and its infinite resilience, nature is not only the background of the narrative, it is also a character. In Head’s own words, “the African story must include nature. (…) Nature is all about connections.”

A Tree for the Birds by Vernon R. L. Head

978-1-4314-2777-2 / Jacana (2018)

img_0478-2

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.

The Fixer

https://okada-assets-production.s3.eu-west-2.amazonaws.com/applications/content/images/bookImages/3a2e52eb3ffb18aacd732b1809dbd55f48b28a02.jpeg

Sir, Raspberry is here. Should I send him in?’

Finally, the governor thought. He was already getting worried.

‘Yes, please’, he said simply.

Raspberry was the codename for his special advisor on security issues. (…) The governor’s codename was Goldmine. Desmond Ekwueme, a.k.a Raspberry, was a trusted friend and close confidant of the governor. They had attended the same university where they had been roommates. Their bond grew stronger when they had been posted to the same state for their National Youth Service. Desmond went on to join the military and even went on a peacekeeping mission to Sierra Leone. He retired after one year and started to work as a private investigator. When Tony became governor, he gave Desmond employment with the state. On paper, it read that Desmond was a special advisor on security but between the two men, Desmond’s role was much deeper than that.

September 2009 : when caught in the act with an obscene tape that could ruin his career and family life, Tony turns to Bolaji The Fixer to save him.

June 2014 : Tony is now stae governor. Desmond Ekwueme aka “Raspberry”, his close friend, is planning on taking the Fixer down, despite the solid network that surrounds this dangerous and fascinating character. Nevertheless, over the years, Tony gradually understands this character who becomes a victim of his own immense influence.

In this brilliant novella set in Rivers State, Nigeria, in a place where money and power control people’s lives, Maxim Kanebi creates a dense, gripping story peopled by memorable characters : Desmond, Tony, The Fixer are masterfully crafted and very true to life, embodying good and evil, morality and immorality, truth and lies constantly that change shapes. Through the fragmented chronology and the web of obscure characters, Maxim Kanebi seeks to “showcase the Nigerian political landscape”, mixing the ingredients of a thriller story with social criticism.

A great first novella from a promising author.

Order your copy here :

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Fixer-Maxim-Kanebi/dp/B08NVQXPWZ

Okada Books: https://okadabooks.com/book/about/detail/41008

The Fixer by Maxim Kanebi

979-8566898032 / Independently published (November 18, 2020)

img_0478-2

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.

Upturned Earth

“They were unschooled, these men who were not able to sign their names or even to read them, and travelled the colonies working as farmhands, stevedores, miners or wagon drivers. (…) They were christened too by scars or afflictions, acts of strength, the colour of their hair, the shape of their ears and noses, losing the name of their birth as they sailed or rode or walked their way from home. (…) Wages they drank, while friendships and animosities alike were ended with punches and knife-cuts in brawls that spilled from pubs into streets and alleys. Theirs was an existence of violence, of dirt, of work and drink. They had no time for weakness.”

When William Hull arrives in a mining community from Namaqualand in the Cape Colony at the end of the 19th century, he does not know yet how this discovery is going to change his life. The tough life of the miners harshly exploited by the managers, the lack of any consideration slowly makes Hull reconsider his mission in Namaqualand.

The well constructed narrative by Etisalat Prize for Literature shortlisted Karen Jennings brings forth a galery of human portraits finely drawn. Among them are Noki, Solomon and the protagonist, the magistrate William Hull, based on a real person living in the 19th century. His strength is challenged when faced with the dramatic events in the mining colony. Iris McBride’s character, on the other hand, unveils as the story moves on, and becomes more complex and nuanced at the very end : from a childless widow with no money, Iris proves to be much more than that. The ending leaves the reader imagine a world of justice and happiness.

Karen Jennings draws her inspiration from real events, past and present, from the history of South Africa, and means to raise awareness on the miners’ life conditions : ” On 16 August 2012 South Africa experienced the terrible Marikana Massacre, where peacefully striking miners were gunned down by police. This tragedy made me want to look at the history of commercial mining in South Africa, and how, despite the passage of more than 150 years, the exploitation and mistreatment of miners continues to this day. “

Upturned Earth by Karen Jennings

978-1-907320-91-0 / Holland Park Press (2019)

img_0478-2

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.

Mr Batwala’s Farm

“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)

img_0478-2

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.

Gender, Separatist Politics, and Embodied Nationalism in Cameroon

Gender, Separatist Politics, and Embodied Nationalism in Cameroon (African  Perspectives): Mougoué, Jacqueline-Bethel Tchouta: 9780472074136:  Amazon.com: Books

“By examining the power of women’s collective political mobilization and their particular role in creating and carrying out a campaign laced with separatist undertones – or, as I phrase it, separatist politics – I describe how politically elite women exercised both individual and collective agency when driving social, political, and economic change in women’s lives in predominant patriarchal societies.”

In her book about the Anglophone nationalist and separatist movements in the 1960s Cameroon, Jacqueline-Bethel Tchouta Mougoué (Assistant Professor of African Cultural Studies at the University of Michigan-Wisconsin) analyses how women’s private and public lives are intertwined with the evolution of the newborn country. From cooking to beauty contests, from education to the questioning of the institution of marriage, women’s lives are the main focus of this comprehensive analysis of the Anglophone Cameroonian society.

In a country still divided between the Francophone and the Anglophone population, the (de)construction of the “ideal womanhood” encompasses all the aspects of life. Moreover, this book is proof that the concept of nation itself had to do with the way women organized themselves and challenged patriarchy, contributing to the evolution of contemporary feminisms.

If the language and the references are more suited for academic research, the topic and the various situations and examples make the book an exciting read. Indeed, if the author examines the idea that “women often represent the values of their cultures” (chapter 4), she also questions the traditional roles attributes to them in the context of the national construction. Are women supposed to be representative for antyhing ? How do we see “women’s roles” six decades after the Cameroonian independence ? In a world in which the claim for gender equality has become part of our daily life, this book is a mirror onto the way challenging the norm has largely contributed to the evolution of social and cultural mindsets.

More about society and politics in Cameroon and in Africa today on the author’s blog and the site Africa is a Country :

https://jacquelinebethelmougoue.com/

https://africasacountry.com/

Gender, Separatist Politics, and Embodied Nationalism in Cameroon by Jacqueline-Bethel Tchouta Mougoué

ISBN : 978-0472074136

Published by University of Michigan Press (October 2019)

img_0478-2

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.