Farad-ising Nigerian Storytelling

First published HERE

By Onyeka Nwelue

Nigerian writing is best known for its intensely beautiful storytelling, wrapped on personal journeys and narcissistic tales. It has so many challenges, from generation to generation. Now, a new generation of writers is making its mark, from poetry to fiction.

Much has changed since Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote Purple Hibiscus. Helen Oyeyemi captured the world with Icarus Girl and made lots of money. A number of ambitious young Nigerian writers began to appear on the scene keen enough to experiment with new storytelling techniques – and practically reach as wide an audience as possible. They started writing beautiful prose and spinning words to recreate, to imagine a new world.

Emmanuel Iduma is one of the most challenging voices in Nigerian literary scene, writing a book that is convoluted, but looks very slim. He has written the novel to engage and enrage audiences. His novel, Farad is about the world: it tells stories about people. It is completely peopled with mad men, lovers, politicians, teachers, musicians and people that Iduma loved. His arrival onto the scene is at once, charming and intimidating. His voice is solid, but what he lacks, however, is the power to keep the reader awake. Sometimes, when I read Iduma’s prose, I sense a show-off, a degree of arrogance from the writer’s part, trying very hard to convince the reader that he is very intelligent. I slept once, reading Farad. Or even twice, but I continued, because the prose charmed me from the beginning. What works for him is his total control over his language and diction.

There are dozens of novels published in Nigeria all the time. Many of them don’t get read. Many of them are trapped in a dozy world, where the writers are completely focused on filling up pages with words and not completely concentrated on telling stories. For the most part, a novel is practically a journey of tales. What makes Farad more beautiful is the voice, the tension and the tenacity with which the words are spun. Just like Jose Saramago, whose beautiful prose could be found in Iduma’s voice, Iduma tries very hard to make people laugh, but he completely lacks a sense of humour. If his job is to be a comedian, he totally fails. This does not mean that he has not written a magnificent tale about the world. It amazes me how he could, at such a young age, be able to capture the world the way he does in this novel. It appeared to me that an artist was painting on a canvas; scattered but beautifully scattered.

I had a tough time trying to keep track of the characters, although it justifies the fact that fiction is life. It is like a train journey. You don’t get to end your journey with everyone. There are stations and people get off and others join. This is just the way Farad reads. Just like notes in music, it goes up, up and down and down and then up. You miss the characters, as they jump into different characters and you find more characters emerging. If there is nothing good aboutFarad, it is the musicality in the voice. It reads like something from the heavens, yet, there are many issues with the book. In totality, the author needs to understand that storytelling is a different game; that experimentation is very hard. Whatever way, there is joy in his voice, which is appealing. Yet, the book lacks that solid appeal that will readily stage the writer as a storyteller, which is the most important thing.

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