Breaking Silence: A Reading of Elnathan John’s ‘Born on A Tuesday’

Northern Nigeria googled, cannot come up without a tag of violence, the BokoHaram Sect in particular. for Nigerians and many foreigners, the lives and stories of the people who come from the northern part of Nigeria are mostly nothing but the ‘pieces’ of news that we gather from the media. Just a very few have had first hand experiences of how life is in the area, and many of the few have not had the opportunity or are not ready to tell of their experiences.

I am not sure about calling BOAT a Northern Nigerian Literature, but I am sure that in the Nigerian Literature Scene, literature from the North are not many, and even the available ones are not of much interest of study or are not available or known. So, what Elnathan John has done with BOAT is to bridge this void to a  great extent.

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BOAT like ‘Season of Crimson Blossom’ by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim delivers current and vivid stories of the north into the mainstream of the Nigerian Literature. Other than steady news of violence, we are able to see, read and feel though in fiction, some close to real experiences of life in the north, that there are people living there excluded from the violence, survivors or victims who still have the capacity to live, love, bear pain, make decision and interact with the outside world, a normal process of life with ‘normal’ people.

BOAT transcends and projects beyond violence. The story is told in the voice of Dantala, the protagonist in the story, of how he lives on the streets, blends into a gang that gets employed by a small political party to fight its opposition. The attack on the opposition’s headquarters office turns ugly and Dantala escapes to another city where he finds solace (food, shelter, education, mentor-ship, love, betrayal, loyalty) in the hands of the Sheikh of the Mosque. He maneuvers through the story with the background of his sick mother and his brothers who have joined a rival sect considered extreme and dangerous, a point where his loyalty and quest for self finds expression.

Elnathan writes this story in a mixed tone, sometimes humorous, sometimes sad, sometimes funny and sometimes tragic. His writing is very vivid, it describes to the letters, takes us to the scene of events and ropes us into the live of the characters and their environment which is of particular concern and interest. The language of Dantala is Nigerian, and many other instances there are code mixing and switching without any foot note or hyphenated explanation. This in some way project an inquisition into the cultural essence of the book, it draws the reader to find out, to explore and get into the language, cultural setting and experience in the book. A plus,I think, for the editor for the careful abandonment of trying to spoon the reader.

Elnathan story telling skill is superb. He writes in a linear way, the events roll into each other with a careful commitment to memory by the use of Dantala’s journal (a journal which also helps focus on his evolving process and integration). This style I think is close or similar to Achebe’s, in a more particular way of holding cultural essence in African Literature. BOAT offers a front row exposition into the burning issues of violence in the northern part of Nigerian, as a way to present the everyday lives of the people who live and base there, along religion, politics and culture. It presents them as a people not as victims only. For example, a reader can have a close imagination of what an Almajiri passes through and how they survive.The narrative is clean and a good debut for the two-time Caine Prize finalist.

BOAT breaks the silence and mono view that surrounds the Northern story.

 

 

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A Reading of Arthur Golden’s ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ – Oluwaseyi G. Abidoye

In Nigeria, where I live, Geisha is canned mackerel fish preserved in salty tomato paste, so when I came across this book during one of my net surfing sessions, I googled the word ‘Geisha’ and the result that popped up prompted me to read the book.

I found out that a Geisha is a traditional Japanese female entertainer who acts as hostess and whose skills include performing various arts such as classical music, dance, games and conversation, mainly to entertain male customers, they are also known as comfort women. There is a history of abuse and molestation of these women during the world war II by the Japanese soldiers and recent news wave about Japanese compensation and apologies to victims of the abuse.

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Memoirs of a Geisha  is a Japanese historical and cultural fiction, a debut of the author, Arthur Golden and a bulky read of about 600+ pages.  it is the story of Geisha, who grew up in the era before the world war two in Japan. Arthur Golden is a professor of Japanese history of American origin, so the prompting contextual concept of the book is basically historical and research oriented. one major book said to have influenced the writing of the Memoirs of a Geisha is  Geisha by Liza Dalby, an American woman who actually became a Geisha.

The book is told in the voice of Nitta Sayuri, who relates her painstaking story of how she became a Geisha. Plucked from her little seaside village of Yoroido, and made into a bittersweet woman in the alluring city of Gion as a Geisha. Stripped of her family she sought to regain her happiness in a lifelong struggle by winning the love of ‘Chairman’, a man whom she greatly love and admire.

Having no prior interest or exposure about Japanese culture or literature I found the metaphor and imagery of water and wood quite boring and too frequent, so I skimmed through the instances of such recurrences. The characters appear vague and seem to be represented by an imagery which constitute their cultural existence, more like a conscious cultural craft.

The book reads like a journey, full of description, carefully laid out to ensure one does not miss his/her way. With less conversation, it compels listening than observing, and that makes it a page turner, because it captures the attention of the reader. There is a lot of expose on the life a Giesha adopts out of no choice and perfect subjectivity and obedience to a structured lifestyle that renders the feminine nature as a commodity and an object of satisfaction to a male dominated ‘club’ or culture.

The book serves an emotional meal, with Nitta Sayuri as the compelling flavour that make one want to continue the reading to the end, after which one is unsure which exact situation is making one’s eyes clouded with tears, her love-hate experience or the uncertainty about her love quest with the chairman, or her eventual happiness. Whichever one is bound to share Sayuri’s experience and feel for her emotional struggles and life journey.

It is basically a love story, packaged in a plot that is common for a love heist that ends in a ‘happily ever after’ way. You will need to read the book to capture all rushing, rolling and falling emotions of grieve, loss, identity, pain, and love. I must say it is an interesting read.  You can place an order for the book here.

Now I can go ahead and see the movie.