Sunday, August 13, 2006

this blog is closed

Gentle & Not-so-gentle readers, this blog has now closed and is moving to another home. There will be no new posts and comments have now shut down. Please remember to update any links on your sites... and do come with us to... Wordsbody

Monday, August 07, 2006


We are not a country of the blind
for you to be so unkind
and unleash flawed wisdom
of the fabled one-eyed king.
We know what you will bring,
another season of pestilence.

Your promised second coming
and uncouth planning,
is insult to hurts
from excruciating first coming.

We are not a country of the blind,
tolerance is no longer our virtue,
endurance has reached breaking point,
hindsight has steeled our resolve.

O gap-toothed Pharaoh,
watch my people boldly go
beyond the reach of tyranny.

O gap-toothed Pharaoh
stay in your castle on the hill,
lay in laps of the brazen lady,
swim in pool of sordid loot,
feast on menu of memories,
drown in red sea of regrets.
We do not give a hoot
for your false love song,
hindsight has opened our eyes,
pain has made us strong.

O gap-toothed Pharaoh,
we are not a country of the blind.

© Emman Usman Shehu

*First published in The Sun, Lagos, Nigeria, on Sunday 30 July; Reproduced with permission

adichie & afolabi

Chimandanda Ngozi Adichie and her long awaited 2nd novel are about to land, folks...

The author of Purple Hibiscus and the soon to be released Half of a Yellow Sun - reads with Segun Afolabi, 2005 Caine winner and author of A Life Elsewhere @ the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Date: Saturday 12 August / Time: 2.30pm.

Half of a Yellow Sun gets its Book Launch on Wednesday 16th August @ 7-9pm in the Menzies & Hancock Rooms, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, 28 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DS.

Adichie teams up with Afolabi again for an event at Waterstone's Piccadilly, 203-206 Piccadilly, London W1V 9LE - on Thursday 17th August @ 7pm. The £3 entrance fee is redeemable against a book purchase on the night.

  • But before all of the above, there's Ngugi to catch in London this week, on the 10th.

*Authors Images by MW: C-n-A taken at the British Library, 15 October 2005; S. Afolabi taken at the Africa Centre, London, 6th July 2005.

on to 26a

Diana Evans, author of 26a, on the cover of yesterday's LIFE Magazine supplement of The Guardian, Nigeria. She continues her book tour of the country all this week.
My review of 26a...
The Unbearable Oneness of Being
By Molara Wood

For readers with more than a passing acquaintance with Neasden, North West London, and features such as the scenic lake known as the Welsh Harp, Gladstone Park and the number 297 bus, Diana Evans’ novel, 26a (Chatto & Windus, London; 231 pages) - evokes the familiar.

It is a feat in itself, that Evans manages to paint Neasden as the enchanting setting of her remarkable debut novel about a set of twins. Zadie Smith did something similar with Willesden - just down the road from Neasden - in her debut, White Teeth. That we have these unlikely locations in notable recent novels, may serve as an indication of new directions in the representation of multiculturalism in current 'British' fiction.

Neasden and Willesden are located in the London Borough of Brent - a local council where whites are now outnumbered by non-whites. Since both authors are females of mixed-race backgrounds, there were bound to be other comparisons, with Evans as the newer writer bearing the burden of having to fight her way out of the shadow of Zadie Smith - a literary superstar. Happily, Evans very quickly put the comparisons largely to rest, with 26a winning prizes and nominations including the first Orange Prize New Writers Award (2005); Smith herself did not get lucky with the Orange until two months ago, with her third novel, On Beauty. 26a also signals the arrival of a lyrical voice with a wondrous eye on the ways of being in this world.

Evans wrote the book as a way of coping with the death of her real-life twin sister, exploring the terrain of twin-hood, or more specifically, the notion of "twoness in oneness". Latched onto this, is a study of mixed belonging, double reality, psychology and identity, in this devastating novel. The author grew up in Neasden, and readers would be grateful that she resisted the temptation to change her book’s setting. The evocation of place in the novel, the sense of Neasden past and near-present - is such that no one passing in the area after reading the book can fail to take a second look. "Neasden was like the high heel at the bottom of Italy. It was what the city stepped on to be sexy," the narrator observes.

The twins in the book, Georgia and Bessie, are very much a product of their environment, and the setting lends an authentic edge to their experiences. Georgia, the emotionally fragile twin, lives on the edge of reality and is fond of going up to Gladstone House in the local park to chat with the British historical figure after whom the place is named. "The future has already happened," Gladstone tells her, "just like the past… there are no answers, only the places we make." The meetings end abruptly, coinciding (amongst other things) with Georgia’s increasing sense of being lost in the colour-coded abyss of her own mind.

The Hunter family - comprising Nigerian mother Ida, English father Aubrey, the twins and their two sisters - live in 26 Waifer Avenue. But Georgia and Bessie have their own magical realm, and their room in the loft is autonomous, with the door marked ‘26a’ to distinguish it from the rest of the world. This bond precedes the twin’s birth, as they are seen in "a moment of indecision" - as two animals about to be squashed by an approaching vehicle. Georgia carries a scar from that horrific pre-natal accident, and as the novel progresses, the deeper psychological scars begin to show. As the book nears its conclusion, Georgia’s brief, first person narration intrudes, insisting that the bond transcends death.

Ida and Aubrey are in an unhappy marriage and their twin daughters watch the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana on television in 1981, trying to decide whether their parents should get a divorce. Ida had fled her Edo village at night at the age of 15 to escape an early marriage and a dead-end life; Aubrey was running from his past. They met "in the middle", in Lagos. In England, Ida is disturbed by the separation from Nigeria and lives in her memories, conversing with the imaginary presence of her mother, Nne-Nne. As for Aubrey, his fondness for alcohol alters his personality, and turns him into the sinister film character, Mr Hyde - in his family’s eyes.

Evans deftly twins events in 26a, so that later occurrences are mirrored or foreshadowed early on. When the twins’ pet hamster dies, Georgia notes a method to dying, observing that "it was possible… to choose the time, to leave when you were ready." The significance would not be lost on the reader later on. We see the beginning of the royal wedding in the narrative, and we are privy to its end. Georgia begins to consider leaving - the ‘leaving’ would later coincide with the year of Diana’s death.

26a is set partly in Nigeria, and there is a chapter portraying the family’s three-year stay in Lagos. Short at it is, the ‘Nigeria’ segment is quite significant, because nothing afterwards is ever the same again. On a visit to Ida’s hometown of Aruwa, the twins meet their grandfather, Baba - a spinner of ‘true’ tales. His mythical retelling of a story about a set of twins from the superstitious past, would have an inexorable impact on how Georgia and Bessie see themselves. Georgia suffers a sexual assault at the hands of Sedrick the gateman and is unable to confide in her twin sister about the trauma. Meanwhile, the more independent Bessie has inherited Aubrey’s "fascination with movement" and asserts her individuality by travelling to the Caribbean. Georgia is unable to cope as ‘one’ person and loses herself in the terror of ‘red’ danger days.

The sections dealing with Nigeria are among the most beguiling parts of 26a, and are a credit to Evans’ power of recall. She had not been to Nigeria for several years at the time of writing the book, relying instead on memory to help conjure a place from the past. Yet, details of places and people in Nigeria, are delightfully rich; her descriptive style, seamless. The staple food, Eba, is mentioned many times in 26a, without the need for jarring, needless explanations, in stark contrast to, say, Sefi Atta’s approach in her book, Everything Good Will Come. This is commendable, especially as, of the two writers, Evans most probably spent less time in the Nigerian environment.

Diana Evans tells a poignant tale in 26a, taking the age-old myth of twins in new, unexpected directions. In the unfolding tragedy, the novel contrives an embrace for Ida and Aubrey, a couple that has long forgotten the art of tenderness. In so doing, those who survive are offered the chance perhaps to heal - and start again.
*Published in The Guardian, Lagos, Nigeria, on Sunday 6th August 2006.

play: the inheritors

Jasonvision presents The Inheritors- A stage play written and directed by Wole Oguntokun, featuring Joke Silva at the Muson Centre on Sunday the 27th of August 2006 at 3pm and 6pm.

The Inheritors- Where there is a will there are relatives-A tale of greed and reckless ambition. First performed at the Muson Centre on Sunday the 29th of December 2003 starring Taiwo Ajai-Lycett.

Gate: N2000 apiece/ Students with I.D. N1000

Tickets may be obtained by calling 01-897 1691, 01-813 6229, 0806 317 9796 or by sending e-mail to .


D.A.Y - Kole Ade Odutola
Darfur Down - mrp/thepoetryman
Half of a Yellow Sun - By Chiedu Ezeanah
Suffer the Little Children - Mshairi
Facing Kilimanjaro - Tade Ipadeola
Amphitheatre - Molara Wood
Nights - Unoma Azuah
A Tale of Two Summits - Niyi Osundare
Eyewitness - Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi
Pharaoh - Emman Usman Shehu
Globetrotter - Amatoritsero Ede
Unbelief - Nnorom Azuonye
Bag Lady - Molara Wood
Anarch of Hubris - Odia Ofeimun
Bayswater - Emman Usman Shehu
Spinner of Dialetics - Chiedu Ezeanah
Cleansing Song - Femi Osofisan
His English is Bad - Toni Kan
The Immigrant - Wole Oguntokun
Talaria - Tade Ipadeola
Lost Seed - Molara Wood

419 squad nominated

Congratulations to the Naija Hip-Hop group, the 419 Squad who, along with their erstwhile collaborator, JJC - have been nominated in 2 categories in this Year's Nigeria Music Awards. They've received nods for Best Group of the Year & UK Urban Artiste of the Year. You can vote for your favourite acts online. So get voting.
Here's the 419 Squad performing for the kids at the African Showcase Market on 22nd July, Willesden Green Library, London.

*Images by MW

poe: short story classic

The Tell-Tale Heart
Edgar Allan Poe

True! – nervous – very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses – not destroyed – not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily – how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture – a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees – very gradually – I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded – with what caution – with what foresight – with what dissimulation I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his door and opened it – oh so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, so that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly – very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man's sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! – would a madman have been so wise as this? And then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously – oh, so cautiously – cautiously (for the hinges creaked) – I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights – every night just at midnight – but I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to do the work; for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye. And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber, and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he has passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.

Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch's minute hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers – of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that there I was, opening the door, little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea; and perhaps he heard me; for he moved on the bed suddenly, as if startled. Now you may think that I drew back – but no. His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness, (for the shutters were close fastened, through fear of robbers,) and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily.

I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up in bed, crying out – "Who's there?"

I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed listening; – just as I have done, night after night, hearkening to the death watches in the wall.

Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief – oh, no! – it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart. I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise, when he had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself – "It is nothing but the wind in the chimney – it is only a mouse crossing the floor," or "It is merely a cricket which has made a single chirp." Yes, he had been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions: but he had found all in vain. All in vain; because Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him to feel – although he neither saw nor heard – to feel the presence of my head within the room.

When I had waited a long time, very patiently, without hearing him lie down, I resolved to open a little – a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it – you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily – until, at length a single dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye.

It was open – wide, wide open – and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness – all a dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones; but I could see nothing else of the old man's face or person: for I had directed the ray as if by instinct, precisely upon the damned spot.

And have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over acuteness of the senses? – now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man's heart. It increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.
But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eye. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant. The old man's terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment! – do you mark me well? I have told you that I am nervous: so I am. And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of that old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror. Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still. But the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me – the sound would be heard by a neighbor! The old man's hour had come! With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He shrieked once – once only. In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done. But, for many minutes, the heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the wall. At length it ceased. The old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held it there many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eye would trouble me no more.

If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence. First of all I dismembered the corpse. I cut off the head and the arms and the legs.

I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye – not even his – could have detected any thing wrong. There was nothing to wash out – no stain of any kind – no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had caught all – ha! ha!

When I had made an end of these labors, it was four o'clock – still dark as midnight. As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it with a light heart, – for what had I now to fear? There entered three men, who introduced themselves, with perfect suavity, as officers of the police. A shriek had been heard by a neighbor during the night; suspicion of foul play had been aroused; information had been lodged at the police office, and they (the officers) had been deputed to search the premises.

I smiled, – for what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country. I took my visitors all over the house. I bade them search – search well. I led them, at length, to his chamber. I showed them his treasures, secure, undisturbed. In the enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room, and desired them here to rest from their fatigues, while I myself, in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim.

The officers were satisfied. My manner had convinced them. I was singularly at ease. They sat, and while I answered cheerily, they chatted of familiar things. But, ere long, I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears: but still they sat and still chatted. The ringing became more distinct: – it continued and became more distinct: I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling: but it continued and gained definiteness – until, at length, I found that the noise was not within my ears.

No doubt I now grew very pale; – but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased – and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound – much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath – and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly – more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Why would they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men – but the noise steadily increased. Oh God! what could I do? I foamed – I raved – I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder – louder – louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God! – no, no! They heard! – they suspected! – they knew! – they were making a mockery of my horror! – this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! – and now – again! – hark! louder! louder! louder! louder! –

"Villains!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed! – tear up the planks! – here, here! – it is the beating of his hideous heart!"


*The Tell-Tale Heart was first published in 1843 by Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), an early master of the short story. The Tell-Tale Heart is out of copyright. A printer-friendly pdf version of the story can be downloaded on Litro.

ana abuja august reading


The Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Abuja Chapter, announces its special August reading session.

The Guest Writer for the event is Bello Musa Dankano, a Federal Civil Servant and author of A Season of Locusts, Petrol Station, My Cousins and I, and The Last Caravan and Other Short Stories.

All lovers of the literary arts are invited to this event which takes place at Reiz Continental Hotel, behind Nicon Insurance Plaza and adjacent to the National Library, Central Area, Abuja.

Date: Thursday, August 31, 2006
Time: 5:00pm

Contact the Secretary (08027433095) or Jerry (08052771123) for any of the Dankano books.

Uduakobong Kanico