Humour will Make Your Heart Skip A Beat

Joel Ntwatwa

This collection of short stories by Writivism mentees deserved more than a few words so I took the time to give each one at least a paragraph review or so. This Writivism Flash Fiction Anthology is continuing celebration of African writing that keeps coming up to the surface and thanks must be given to the people at Writivism plus the mentors that took time to see this craft being honed!

 

Justice

Of all the days to die, you die on a Saturday morning with the grime of Friday night clubbing clinging to your skin.

You will enjoy this ghost’s tale as Adeola Opeyemi Salau tells what at first seems like it’s going to be a funny tale but which turns out ghastly. There were stories I thought could only be found at home, Kampala, in the early 2000’s, but after reading Adeola’s story, you get the feeling there are shared experiences all over Africa. If you are in the act of quickly passing judgement, you do not want to be the unfortunate fellow who is conveniently addressed as “You” in this story.

Overcome

When it comes to Chivimbiso Gava’s story, you’re very early introduced to the world of a private nature. If you blush at certain realities, time to take some cold water. Chivimbiso’s fun imagery attempts to give a light heartedness to a story that is somewhat melodramatic if not downright tragic and dramatic. You’re transported into the very private world and work of a nightworker who has a queer problem. One that troubles her most valuable possession. You might also be taken for a fool when you discover what she does to handle her problem. This was an enjoyable but disturbing read. One you read with a contorted face.

Aduke’s Waist

Tolu Daniel must be a very funny guy. Very funny. If you ask why, it is because when you too eventually read Aduke’s Waistyou will laugh every time it starts (It cannot be read once). First, for some reason, I read it in the Nigerian accent of an old man (thanks to the passive influence of Nollywood). In this voice, you cannot miss guffaw-worthy statements like

I knew it was Aduke because no one can mistake the mango shape of her head.

It is a queer tale of unusual family and neighbourly dynamics. Of village champions bettered by university students, old men sneaking around with… but let me not spoil it for you. I must appreciate Tolu for allowing me to feel like I was in that Nigerian homestead. Good story telling.

The Miners

I travelled to a town (in South Africa) with Helen Herimbi, and observed the strange relationship between the street, beggars and the authorities. Helen’s particular gift is offering a 360 view of a distinct event. In this one, you are at some point The Miners, then you are one of The Miners, then you are the mysterious bakkie, Bob and then nothing. You shift in between characters that are being held in tension in this weird “monkey’s wedding” weather.  Tension is the word here.

The Kind of Water I Like

It’s always exciting to read a story from home. And one that comes from Aujo Lillian even more so. The Kind of Water I Likemakes me admire Aujo’s characterisation. In a way you understand Clever’s predicament, it is a very old predicament but his circumstances make it all the more pitiable. A tale of impossible love that explores social disconnect. I think it’s how Aujo decides to say certain things that keep you reading; for example

This is the kind of water I like; I can control its coming and going with a flick of my wrist….There are no maggots here. There’s no urine or shit on the floor. I wish this was my toilet.

But still, Aujo is an awesome writer. This story happily whets my appetite for a full length novel from her.

The Escape

Margaret Muthee describes a matatu experience so intricately you’d think you were there (which is really the objective, is it not?). You can almost smell the puke, the sawdust, feel the rickety bus as it moves and even want to slap the conductor for his stupidity.Yet it’s not really the matatu experience that warms your heart. It’s the character, the old man’s circumstances that make this story of note. What things have you done for love, I ask. First read Muthee’s The Escape and compare.

The God of Death

Sunitha is a devout worshipper. I think this is partly why when the untimely news of a loss in the family meets her, she feels cheated by God. A God who she decides to get back at with the most tempered reaction.

It is the new worlds that I am introduced to by Sima Mittal that are fascinating. It may be mysticism to many but the world of many deities is not strange in India. Sima drops a culture on you, but gently. The conversations, the descriptions, the smells let you know where you are as you observe the story. If I had a word for it, it would be discovery, literary discovery.

Lagos Doesn’t Care

For sure, after reading Socrates Mbamalu’s Lagos Doesn’t Care, you sort of agree that maybe Lagos doesn’t care. It’s hard to finish a story by a Nigerian in this collection without laughing. Seun is a young Nigerian man who must find a way out of a pleasurable predicament and the way out that Socrates Mbamalu provides is nothing short of ludicrous! Must read.

The Convenient Doctor

Thato Angela Chuma must answer me one question, and perhaps she’s asking the reader to answer the same question “What sort of thing forces a married woman to do such a thing?”. Besides that question though, I appreciated the time and craft Chuma took to plant us into the world of this Convenient Doctor. The way she paints the room, the medical instruments, language, her patient’s outlook…It’s a bit awkward being in that room though. Such private things!

Your Heart Will Skip A Beat/ Tomorrow’s Burden

Uzoma Ihejirika has two stories in this Writivism collection. Your Heart Will Skip a Beat and Tomorrow’s Burden. In terms of his fiction being flash, it is quite so. The stories are very light footed but not necessarily both as light hearted. The former story, as all the stories from Nigeria so far have been in this collection, has not-so-demure humour, unexpected humour at that. One unlucky man gets into a tricky situation as he tries to postpone his rent payment but what’s funny are the characters involved in this matter as well as the use of pidgin. Maybe the pidgin makes me laugh I don’t know but Uzoma’s first tale was funny.

His second one is one of an anxious, heavy and waiting love. Set in a school, you transform into two characters smitten with the nervousness of shyness and lack of experience as regards love. Uzoma almost made me get up and nudge the two but argh, sometimes being a reader is limiting!

Same Size Feet

Wairimu Murithii’s Same Size Feet is a bewitching tale! God-o! The way she foretells. The way she unwraps. The way she reveals. Cheesus! The matter is not that it lays heavy on your heart the omen she keeps pronouncing, but the viscosity of her characters that make you want to weep! Achi! Wairimu broke and mended my heart in such a delicate manner.

Juliet

Classic tale, okay maybe not so classic, but someone must have had this experience and it is such a nagging experience. So funny, yet so sad. Magunga William’s Juliet takes you on a journey through Nairobi, to discussions on women emancipation, love, that you don’t realise the writer is taking you for a ride only to snatch your sense of prediction!!! When the tale ends, I am laughing and cannot erase this one line –

“Ngoja! The message! That’s all I want to read. Then you can have the phone. Tafadhali. Pleeeaase!”

The collection is worth owning. It’s currently free at Bahati Books.  Download it here! 

This book review was originally published at Nevender.com, as part of the #Writivism2016 Festival Book Features. Joel Ntwatwa is one of the select official book bloggers. He will review a number of books that will be launched, featured and available for sale at the festival. Look out for the badge below on your favourite book blogs. And come to the festival to buy the books and get them signed.

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