By Vuyo Mzini
The film, Joker, released in 2019 and starring Joaquin Phoenix, portrays the descent of a simple and harmless man into madness. The primary reason is the ugliness with which the world treats him. In one of the most profound scenes marking a crescendo in his self-expression, he turns a joke into an epic political statement about the fate of minorities:
What do you get when you cross a mentally-ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash? I’ll tell you what you get! You get what you fuckin’ deserve!
[Joker shoots Murray in the head, killing him instantly]. More…
By Vuyo Mzini
AdaOkere Agbasimalo’s book, published in 2014 and titled The Forest Dames, is a fictional rendition of events that occurred during the Nigerian Civil War. A reader not resident in Nigeria (and not in touch with continental politics) may initially question the relevance of a depiction of a war from more than four decades ago. Scenes from the book, depicting Igbos fleeing from the northern part of the country to the South East, on account of being persecuted, seem far removed from the ‘woke’ culture of post-2010 consciousness:
The train spilled over with people looking harassed and frightened… They were on their way home. They had escaped from the killing in the city and were now trying to tame their fear.
The train moved on. The next station…fierce-looking men jumped into the coaches and pointed at some of the passengers.
‘You, you, you, come down’.
The men pounced on them, pulling them up forcefully and pushing them out. They never returned… Later, stories were told of how their heads were shattered with heavy iron rods, their brains spilling on the ground. According to the stories, their bodies were dragged to some location and, before long, vultures began to hover around (p 43). More…
Kọ́lá Akínlàdé’s novel, Ta L’olè Ajọ́mọgbé? (Who is the Kidnapper?), was published in 1992, when Nigeria was preparing to return to democracy. Akínlàdé belongs to a generation of authors who wrote in their native Yorùbá language despite the dwindling fortunes of the publishing industry at the time. For the most part of General Ibrahim Babangida’s eight-year military rule, education in Nigeria grew worse and publishers’ operations ceased as a dwindling middle class meant that the book market also shrank. Books written in indigenous languages were hit the hardest and they are yet to recover. Kọ́lá Akínlàdé is one of Yorùbá language’s most prolific authors and he excels at crime fiction. One of his novels, Owó Ẹ̀jè, was adapted to a film by Remdel Communications in 2003. More…
At the end of the novel Sozaboy, the protagonist, the man-child named Mene, has become a ghost. He has become not a ghost of himself but a proper ghost, a proper wraith, an evil spirit. That is what the people of Dukana, his hometown, believe. More…
By Vuyo Mzini
The first verse of the duet between renowned songsters Natalie Cole and Diana Krall, titled ‘Better than Anything’, lists food items that are good but that do not quite measure up to the feeling of being in love. Alternating each line of the song, they sing:
Cole: Better than cream cheese and bagels, better than honey on bread.
Krall: Better than champagne and pretzels, better than breakfast in bed.
Cole: Better than chilli rellenos, better than chocolate eclairs.
Krall: Better than hot house tomatoes, better than fresh Bartlett pears.
Cole: Better than dining à la carte –
Krall: Or simply gastronomic art.
Together: Better than anything except being in love. More…
By Vuyo Mzini
In a 2013 interview on YouTube with Commonwealth Writers, as part of the publicity for his winning the Commonwealth Book Prize for the Africa region, E E Sule describes the inspiration for his 2012 debut novel, Sterile Sky, as the traumatic background in which he grew up in Kano City at a time of poverty and religious violence:
I keep remembering, in a very dramatic way, in fact it kept coming to me as a nightmare, that [my family and I] were hearing the sounds of death around us.
‘The production and consumption of text and discourse serve particular purposes. Apart from aesthetic ones, which are studied in poetics and stylistics, texts represent social values and traditions and relate to ideological positions [which] originate in extra-textual structures of reality and society’. – The Taming of the Text, Willie Van Peer
It goes without saying that the discourse of literature cannot be divorced from the discourse of the ideological constructs that shape or instruct the writer’s art. Every literary work is an attempt or a medium of expressing the socio-political and historical challenges of the society. In the discussion of North African literature, Sonallah Ibrahim, Waguih Ghali, Miral al-Tahawy, Tawfiq al-Hakim and Youssef Fadel are writers who reflect the social and political conditions of society in artistic works. In this regard, A Beautiful White Cat Walks with Me, written by Casablanca-native and novelist Youssef Fadel, could be read as illuminating the inhumanity of the war between Morocco and Western Sahara. More…
‘Gone are the days when people set up their own business for personal gain and profit, the business of a dying world is survival. Now we all work to save our nation from extinction’.
We Won’t Fade into Darkness is a dark, haunting collection of short stories about a post-apocalyptic Nigeria, where the air is impregnated with a poisonous gas called Nigerium that causes sperm cells to rot and kills people. It is a place so bleak, so disaster-struck that people are reduced to the most basic versions of themselves, with the instincts for self-preservation, sex, hunger, the desire to wander and death dictating the terms of existence. More…
Embrace on Brooklyn Bridge is beautifully told. It opens on the eve of Salma’s twenty-first birthday dinner. Her grandfather, Professor Darwish, an academic in the US, has spent two weeks planning the event and inviting friends from far and wide to help mark it. He also wants to use the occasion to explain why he has suddenly retired from the university, after twenty-five years, and why he has sold his house. Although an Egyptian by birth, he thinks little of his culture and its fanatics, preferring life in the US. To him, it is insane for anyone to compare the two countries. More…
By Timi Odueso
‘Nothing lies between us and happiness but the demons that lie between us’. – Naguib Mahfouz
Translated into English by Nariman Youssef, Cigarette Number Seven is set in Cairo and alternates between the past and the present. Although it is largely centred on the events of the Egyptian revolution in early 2011, it employs the use of flashback to highlight the journey of the protagonist and how she finds herself. More…