Diaries of a Dead African

Chuma Nwokolo Jr

Villager House 2003
A book review by Danny Yee © 2014 http://dannyreviews.com/
When Meme Jumai's wife leaves him she takes most of his yams, leaving him facing starvation: "Fourteen days before the village harvest and only two tubers and thirteen inches of yam left at home!" He makes desperate attempts to avoid starving but has to do so while maintaining his reputation, without violating the unwritten rules of the town of Ikerre. Throw in a bit of bad luck and it doesn't end well, but he does at least manage to avoid the abject, undignified "death of a lizard".

His son Calamatus continues his father's diary and his attempts to assert his status. Poverty is not his problem, since he has carried out a successful 419 scam and is rolling in cash, buying cars and fridges left, right and centre. He uses his money to force acceptance by the village, but he has a secret failing that no amount of money can fix and when that becomes public he too seeks a catastrophic end.

Abel, an aspiring writer, usually tries to avoid confrontations, but he has been left an impossible legacy by his father and brother...

Diaries of a Dead African is a tragicomedy, at the same time shockingly bleak and startlingly funny. It exploits the juxtaposition of the traditional and modern in Nigerian society and the psychological stresses those impose. It is not a novel "set in" West Africa, however, with a bit of decorative local colouring, but a novel which wouldn't make much sense anywhere else, with a distinctive language reflecting ways of thinking as well as a completely compelling setting.

February 2014

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%T Diaries of a Dead African
%A Nwokolo Jr, Chuma
%I Villager House
%D 2003
%O paperback
%G ISBN 9782190039
%P 193pp