All posts by Benson Eluma

Prisoners of Jebs: Satire and the Clichés of History

By Benson Eluma


  • Title: Prisoners of Jebs
  • Author: Ken Saro-Wiwa
  • Publisher: Saros International Publishers
  • Number of pages: 178
  • Year of publication: 1988
  • Category: Fiction

Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Prisoners of Jebs does not spare anybody or anything. In the finest tradition of satire, Saro-Wiwa does not spare himself. His dramatis personae make up a bewildering gallery. Figures of world-historical stature share a platform with puny potentates. Stock characters taken straight from Nigerian life jostle for a place alongside sheer monsters conjured up by the fertile and unforgiving imagination of the writer. First appearing in Vanguard, from January 1986 to January 1987, in weekly instalments of mocking guffaws at events of the day and of recent history, the publication in 1988 of Saro-Wiwa’s yearlong offering of jibes at the failures and foibles of Nigerian society, its leaders and citizens alike, must have been the occasion of much laughter at the time, and, needless to add, much offence, more than doubling the effects of instantaneous reactions that had earlier followed in the wake of his Vanguard column. More…

The Event of Song of Lawino

By Benson Eluma


  • Title: Song of Lawino
  • Author: Okot p’Bitek
  • Publisher: East African Publishing House
  • Number of pages: 216
  • Year of publication: 1966
  • Category: Poetry

A popular event, yes. A great event? Yes. Since there is literary drought’. – Taban lo Liyong

But the text exists as linguistic, as historical, as commercial, as political event. And while each of these ways of conceiving the very same object provides opportunities for pedagogy, each provides different opportunities – opportunities between which we must choose’. – Kwame Anthony Appiah

Yes, of course, the text can exist as an event in any of those dimensions. Sometimes in all of them at once, thus ensuring that certain texts, for all the bravura they may display or conceal, confront us as multidimensional entities, larger than mere rhetorical projects. They exist, as it were, as assemblages of artefacts, as archaeological precincts inhabited by transactions of social life which may coalesce into a pattern. And they, according to established formula, may over time come to accrete into that complex of ruins which every literary archaeologist knows she has to preserve with the care of attentive criticism. Otherwise, what would be the point? More…