Finally we decided to meet and talk.
As we sat in my office our discussion shivered away from the regular writers' talk to more liberal topics. This must be my guy! My ideal type of writer! Someone not enshrined to big books only (not a geek at all!) Gradually he shows his prowess in other areas of life. We exchanged ideas. The same day, he kindly presented a copy of the Abyssinian Boy to me. Since I don't write reviews (due to some circumstances beyond my control), I believe I am obliged to talk about the book at least.
Before I continue with the book, I must say that Onyeka Nwelue presented himself as a myth before me the other day as we gobbled some bottles of drink before, and also listened to a funny guy that presented himself as a writer, though he doesn't know his own craft. The guy felt elated to sit with us, smiling like the donkey character in Shrek. He really breached our discussion at that point, I must admit. After he was gone, we continued.
"You don't believe in God!"
That was what came out of my mouth after he declared to me that he doesn't believe in God. Well, I do not share the same idea, but I have never seen anybody so sure about himself like Onyeka Nwelue. He believes in his own ethics and religion (without "God" tag in it). I admire him!
But to be sincere, I see him as a myth, something that exists only in dreams. To tell you the truth, my perception changed after that day (not about God). I began to feel the reality I never felt and wish to work harder like never before. He is a virus.
Like a virus he infected the students of Kaduna State University, building a new future. Boldly he said many things that raised his fist to the throat of the past generation of writers—not really an insult, but the truth. Stories have changed, African writers needs to know more about world literature, something everyone will appreciate. I have seen a lot of books (will not mention names) in Owerri that aren't fit to be called "books." Some of the authors occupy seats in writers' forums, releasing works that will not be appreciated by the international community, always sounding didactic and clumsy, chunking out books filled with mighty grammars. We appreciate foreign authors because they give us what we like: The truth about life. Not some moral lesson always—life is larger than that! A novel should be sweet, hold water, subtle, interesting, educative, and much more, stuffing life into a book. So I agree with Onyeka whole heartedly. But I didn't like his comment about Things Fall Apart, to me it's a masterpiece and I still pick it up any-time, any-day, read and reread. But that doesn't make me an apostle of provincialism.
Now talking about Abyssinian Boy, it's a story of alienation. The book serves as a bridge between two countries: Nigeria and India. In a broader view,it ties a cord between Africa and Asia. To me Abyssinian Boy captured the essence of our age: Modernity. Patiently I followed the characters, but occasionally I got jammed up (too many characters!) He showed us another world (he didn't tell), which is the quality of a good writer. Bravely he wrote about life: Sex, homosexuality, topics writers shy away from but occasionally find themselves in. He did extensive research to come out with a work that blended history into the vast topic it handled. The novel ended in sad way, but it opened windows for discussions. Truly is a book to make noise about.
I think it is time to remove tags like "African Literature," even though we will occasional find ourselves in it. It is time to drive African books into the world market, and produce world bestselling authors, not just library-masterpiece like we have been experiencing. Onyeka Nwelue is a myth, still swimming in the ocean of dreams. Onyeka, ride on!
Onyenezi Chika Victor is an editor with AuthorMe.com and blogs at Shades of Grey.
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