Book Review : Smithereens of Death by Olubunmi Familoni

This one is a sharp thrust into the short stories culture in Nigerian Literature. It is unusual for a debut, it is brilliant, intelligent and very driven into the superseding theme that dominates the stories in the book – death.  Familoni’s style of writing is somewhat new to me, he does not beat about in his narration – which is mostly done in the first person – it is like he wants to tell you a story and he does not want to look up from the script, and after the story he abandons the reader with thoughts and after thoughts to make of the story whatever s/he wants.

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The theme of death might seem unattractive for a debut, but in Smithereens of Death, Familoni presents a romance with the unusual and dumps different emotions and perspective about death on the reader, hence smithereens, little pieces of what Africa is slowly dying of. The stories are localized but they bear humanist spirit to the reader in vivid, figurative and expressionist form. Familoni is creative about this collection in a strange way, his narratives are not calling for attention, yet he expresses, he seems not to be asking the readers to discourse the intention or the whys behind his writing and stories, he just simply wants to state the facts and move on. Like in ‘Enough’ the response to how a person was killed is not emotional but blatant and plain, like some being chopped up and cooked is not new, the emotion runs in the reader while the characters are almost unreal and almost not there about it.

Familoni also employed local English, the Nigerian English flavored with pidgin and dialectic-ally  infested. It makes the reader who is a Nigeria fall in perspective with the character and it eases the mystery and the absurdist mode that Familoni engulfed the stories in. The language also helps break down the imagery employed in the stories and create familiar locale and contexts for the Nigeria reader. This is not to say that a non native reader would find it hard to read this book. The narrative are more human than local. They disrupt every known perception about death and make it look less horrible than it is.

Familoni’s imaginative strokes are rear and I think that is a plus for him. Little wonder the book won the 2015 Abubakar Gimba/ANA Prize for Short Stories. For a debut, I rate Familoni above average on this one. The book reeks of intellectualism and it is unique in the pool of the short stories cliche.

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