” Jonathan had to grow uo fast to adapt the changes that were happening around him. After school, he would go to his uncle’s house to have lunch and pick up Richie who now spent the day there because Joyce would be at work. They would then go home together. As brothers, they grew closer.
(…) Next to losing his father, leaving Richie to go to the boarding, was one of the most painful experiences Jonathan had had at this point in his life. (…) As he was about to depart the following morning, Richie would not let go of him as they embraced. They both sobbed as a deep sense of loss engulfed them yet again.
At this tender age, deep in Jonathan’s psyche, a picture of what type of woman his heart would yearn for was already imprinted and it was what his mother wasn’t. “
A bar in modern-day Dar Es Salaam. Emilie and Jonathan have just broken up. Jonathan, who ends everything, is not yet fully aware of the true reason of his decision.
As the story moves on, we discover a thirty-year old protagonist who, in his quest for comfort and love, unconsciously does everything to make a chaos out of his life to run away from responsibility and facing reality. When he meets Emilie, Jonathan feels unworthy of her because he is not rich and successful. From the break-up to the struggle to get and keep a job, his haunting childhood experiences rush into his present life and sometimes prevent him from seeing things clearly.
E. K. Ndanguzi’s novel has a cinematographic dimension to it which makes the scenes and the dialogues move before the reader’s eyes. This vividly visual and kinematic novel depicts the inner landscape of a universal character who, like everybody else, is afraid of the unknown effect of his past on him, as well as of facing his own life.
This haunting shadow is epitomized by the smilodon, an ancient species of tiger which used to terrorize all the animals (including the forefathers of the human beings), yet whose presence is seldom seen. Therefore, the smilodon was not so much present per se as he was in the minds and the imagination of the others who feared him ; his aura outlives him. At the end of the day, the author seems to tell us, our deepest fears only exist in our own minds, and they are our own smilodons.
The Smilodon by E. K. Ndanguzi
Published on June 30th, 2020.
Review by Ioana Danaila
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.