Saturday, December 31, 2011


He ran his left hand through his silky brown hair like he would do when his colleagues at the office were responding too slowly on a task. She held a frozen smile. She stuffed her items into her grey hand bag, yet she knew she wanted to be in that house for five years more. With quick steps, she grabbed her panties from the silver hanger in the toilet. She remembered that night when they had dinner at the Chinese food court in Mega Plaza, how he held her hands every minute, how he asked her softly what they were going to order, how he told her to raise her head from his thighs when she was going to take a nap, because she was too tired from work and he didn’t want people to think she was giving him a blow job in public like Oyibos would make Naija girls do. She was going to miss him taking her out, as usual, for a treat; instead of making her cook dinner for them both.

The young French-Djiboutian author Abdourahman A. Waberi is one of the more inventive of a new wave of African writers, and is also unique in the range of his influences. His work manages to reference authors as diverse as Nuruddin Farah, Rimbaud, and Walter Benjamin, which also gives you a sense of how he has continued to confound expectations of both literary genres and African writing.

This girl whose name eluded him. She was skinny and small and probably more than a little high on the miraa bulging in her cheek. She looked very different from her voice, a rough, rousing roar of four in the morning in those dark little hovels by the roadside, the ones run by fat round women called Rhoda and Francisca who serve cheap lethal brews to broken men in oversized jackets. Now she spat suddenly into a polythene bag magically extracted from somewhere in the complicated folds of her clothes. And then she was unwrapping half of a Big G, chewing it, making rude, rhythmic clicks. She seemed to appreciate the sound more than the flavour. She stared at him the whole time, her large liquid eyes shining out of the khanga that covered her head and framed her face; the rest of it disappeared inside a fur-lined jacket, unzipped half-way down to reveal a T-shirt tucked tight into a pair of worn jeans. Limuru, he knew, got very cold. He wondered what she would do with her jacket in the heat of Kampala. But it was the boots with their steel-tipped points that convinced him this was a malaya, going west to seek new flesh markets. There was no money in Kenya. Everybody was leaving, and lying about it.

The world is now privy to the myriad lies and exaggerations of the acclaimed writer, Professor Christopher Abani regarding his imaginary ordeal in Nigeria’s prisons (mostly Kirikiri). The lies are compelling and give Africa a black eye: The death sentence imposed on him because of his involvement in military coups as a teenager and his alleged witness to the execution of at least one 14-year old through death by nailing of his penis to a chair until he bled to death. The shocking revelations of Abani’s “419” activities are detailed here on my blog.

His mother ruffled his hair, which he hated for its darkness, hair that made him feel marked out, different.  Hair as dark as if Mussolini himself had snuck over the Bavarian border into his mother’s bed, the night Otto was conceived.

He wasn’t the only brunette, of course, but as a general rule where most of the children were large, he was small; where they were clean, he was grubby, and where they were amused, he was bored.  Childhood, to Otto, seemed like very hard work and he found himself wishing away the days from a comparatively young age.
The summer of 1926 was hot and to the twelve-year-old Otto’s delight, mosquitoes laid their eggs in places where it was normally too cold.

Have a great 2012 Bookaholics!

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