TWO NIGERIAN WRITERS AND A RUSSIAN: CHUMA NWOKOLO’S DIARIES OF A DEAD AFRICAN, TONI KAN’S NIGHTS OF A CREAKING BED AND FYODOR DOSTOYEVSKY’S THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD

(A SHORT REVIEW BY ADA AGADA)

In the last eight days I was able to read Chuma Nwokolo’s DIARIES OF A DEAD AFRICAN, Toni Kan‘s NIGHTS OF THE CREAKING BED and Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD.

Diaries of a Dead African is a novel in three ‘movements’ or waves, an intense harrowing tale of a dysfunctional family whose members are led inexorably to unmitigated disaster. I have always believed in the existence of stupid men and women. Meme Jumai’s wife Stella is a typical example of a foolish woman. And if anyone takes a feminist stance on this subject, it will be a pity. A woman who carries on with different men at the same time and is not sure who the fathers of her children are must be foolish. Nwokolo’s masterful novel, produced in broken Warri English and standard Queen’s English, is a caricature, a magnification of reality for the sake of emphasis. I prefer his THE GHOST OF SANI ABACHA, although I confess that the novel status of the former gives it some advantages over the latter, a collection of stories.

Reading Toni Kan’s Nights of the Creaking Bed gave me the strange feeling that I was conversing with a clever clown. Kan is intelligent in a foolish way. This is praise, not derision. The stories are memorable and captivating. He is a fine writer but definitely not in the class of his friend Helon Habila. I have to be persuaded otherwise by reading a full-length novel of Kan’s. The writer, Pever X [author of Cat Eyes][1] prefers Toni Kan because both write essentially as entertainers. Yet I keep saying a writer needs vision to be great. Surprisingly, THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD is less gloomy than the two works mentioned above despite its grisly title.

Dostoyevsky, unlike Kan and Nwokolo, leaves us with the hope that life will continue to shame death with its will to live. While the Nigerians are artists, Dostoyevsky is both an artist and a prophet and philosopher. This is the man who told his wife on his deathbed not to forbid him to die, the man who opened Matthew chapter 3 and got Anna his wife to read verses 14 and 15 where it is written that the Christ urged John not to forbid him from coming to be baptized because of his (Christ’s) superior spiritual exaltation. ‘Do not forbid me,’ the dying man pleaded. And the woman acquiesced. This powerful spirituality, the consummation of Christianity in love and resignation, runs through THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD and gives us hope that the reality of suffering and death will never destroy the human spirit, that for every event there is a season, that death no less than birth is only a season, an event which must pass.

 

 

 

 

Ada Agada is the author of the novel, The Anxious Life. He is also a philosopher, poet and critic. He is currently researching on a philosophical work that would leave a mark in the world. Ada is a leading voice and moderator of the online forum of the Benue ANA (Association of Nigerian Authors).


[1] Pever X is the author of CAT EYES (published by SEVHAGE), a close friend of Ada Agada

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