Friday, September 4, 2015

THE VOICE. By Gabriel Okara

“Have a taste of the essence of this work: "The people who have the sweetest insides are the think-nothing people and we here try to be like them. Like logs in the river we float and go whither the current commands and nothing enters our insides to turn the sweetness into bitterness". This is a novel written in what might be dubbed "African English"; over the years a number of pundits described what author Okara does here as an "experiment". What is clear is that if the prose puzzles many Eurocentric readers, most authentic Africans would find it convincing and powerful. Many African phrases from the mother tongue are rendered directly in English which might jar with westerners. But aside from the language, it is a "simple" interesting story; Okolo, the young man who is despised by his own people for daring to think for himself, and ponder on the meaning of life. In the end (spoiler!) he and Tuere, a woman branded a witch are killed. What might surprise many is the enmity which the traditional leaders led by King Izongo have towards Okolo, who after all is just a young man. By being insightful and ruminative Okolo makes enemies virtually everywhere he goes, including at nearby Sologa - where he's bluntly told "your head is not correct" (ie he's crazy). This is an unusual novel, even for we Africans, and it is a work one finds himself re-reading over the years.

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