The most broken record you could here today is that 2020 has been a very awful year. It has been an utterly awful year on all counts. However, like Victor Hugo rightly said, “It is from books that wise men derive consolation in the troubles of life.”
Fred Khumalo is a proven storyteller with a couple of award-winning works of fiction. I read one of them earlier this year. However, it took the nostalgic memory of rereading this memoir for me to remember that I first encountered Fred Khumalo the journalist before Fred Khumalo the novelist. My introduction to his career was during his stint at ThisDay newspaper,
Even before 1849 when the elegant William Thompson stopped strangers on the street and asked them if they had enough confidence in him to trust him with their watches till the next day, deceit has been a part of human relationships from little tricks to elaborate scams. Are we all gullible to confidence games? Are some of us immune to cons? Are their traits common to all grifters? These are the questions that The Confidence Game sets out to answer and explore.
While I was halfway through Chimeka Garricks’ debut novel – Tomorrow Died Yesterday, the 25th anniversary of the execution of Kenule Saro-Wiwa (and eight others) by the Nigerian state was marked.
I read this book for the first time in 2011. I found it bland enough not to remember what it was about. Fast forward to 2020; I finished my 2020 TBR list and decided to pick a short set of books I had read in the past and always wanted to reread. This is not an opportunity that comes often so I grabbed it with both hands. I could only pick six books (as I did not want to have an unmet target by the end of the year). A Life Elsewhere was one of the random six reread picks.
A Life Elsewhere is a collection of seventeen eclectic short stories. The fundamental theme that runs across all seventeen of them is dislocation. The dislocation caused by migration as seen in Monday Morning – a story about a family that had moved from a war-torn to a safer country. However, life is dislocated at every turn for every member of the family. From the father who has to settle for way less in the form of a job where his dignity is attacked to his wife who feels sad at the growing emasculation of her husband by the new social order. In People You Don’t Know, a young man is sent abroad from London to stay with a relative after an unspecified scandal. There he gets employed to cleans the estate pool even as he struggles to fit in and hold down a permanent job while being unable to keep himself away from trouble. In Arithmetic and The Husband Of Your Wife’s Best Friend, the dislocations are mostly around mid-life crises and the regrets that that stage of life brings. In Something In The Water, a Nigerian man returns to his home country with his foreign wife who is coming to the country for the first time. He is distraught with how things have not changed but actually deteriorated while he was away. His wife on the other hand is intrigued by the different lifestyle she sees and is actually adventurous to the point of irritating her husband. In Gifted (which was my favourite story in the collection), a Nigerian housewife who is living with her diplomat husband in Japan is dislocated both in body and soul. The first source of her dislocation is the isolation she feels due to loneliness and being far from her siblings who are back in Nigeria. She is increasingly isolated in a land where she does not seem to fit in. Secondly, her dislocation is caused by a physically and verbally abusive husband. There is a rare of sunshine at the end when successfully runs for safety with her two kids one afternoon while her husband is away at work.
A Life Elsewhere is a decent collection set in diverse locations that paint vivid pictures of dislocated and lonely characters. There is a pessimism that pervades the stories but it is underpinned in reality and mundane every day living.
A while back, I saw a viral tweet that was asking people for a verse of the bible that encapsulated the reason why they still believed as Christians, As is often the case, I did not engage with the tweet but scrolled through almost a hundred responses. Despite not responding, I was reminded of what my response would have been. Without a second thought, it would have been – Hebrews 1:1-3.
The odd thing about randomly picking out TBR lists is that you often pick books that you ordinarily would not choose. Why Soldiers of Fortune falls into that category is that while I loathe reading books about Nigeria, one is often curious to understand the working of a system that is utterly this dysfunctional. Any apprehension I felt before reading it was quickly dispelled within the first few pages of the book.
Tour de force is a phrase that I, like many others, have used a few times in describing one work of fiction or the other. A book that comes along and chews more than it seems it can swallow and at the end, its author emerges emphatically
Normal People is a highly praised book that has been marked by critics and fans alike as a future classic and even termed a the benchmark for millennial fiction. Its string of literary awards and shortlists, including The Booker prize Longlist are a
Two years ago, while the Brexit debacle was still in full swing I sought a bough that went beyond the headlines and the outrage of the progressive left who were bewildered at the audacity of Brexiters. Goodhart’s Road To Somewhere was my pick.