We never did get around to building the swimming pool in our backyard that my wife and I often spoke about. We said it would be for the children. Instead, the swimming pool could never be built because there were pipes underneath running under the ground where we wanted it to go.
So ideas for swimming lessons were planted inside my wife’s head. Mine too. Romance! What a harsh experience. Love, the interlude between two acts. Oh how it changes everything about the world experience, materialism, values, spiritual poverty, and that prime commodity of all commodities, spirituality. When I became a writer, I didn’t really know how I was going to go about it. Didn’t know really what I was getting myself into. But my wife stood by me. Saw me through that manic phase as well. I need her. I still need her by my side. Her elegance, her humour, and her beauty is what gets me through the day.
I need her like grit. The strange thing is she will always be good enough for me, but will I be good enough for her? What can get this bleak pose out of me, this dogged depression, this fierce, fatal memory? I will remember my wife always as the exotic Gerda that I brought home to my mother, my father, sisters, and my brothers.
How I will remember that this romance will live long, and will go on, and on, and on. She will remain beautiful to me now and forever more, even in old age. Careful not so spill your warm soda, handling plates carefully on your knees, surrounded by your family, faces of love, your children, your wife. So this is my story. This is it. This is where it all began seventy years ago. I am an old man now. I am a man who is in the autumn of his years. I’m a father who is looking at his son’s proud, and handsome face. He is embracing his namesake, my grandchild, my grandson, our legacy. Standing by his side is the beautiful, high-spirited young woman he has decided to take as his life-partner. He has the wisdom I did not have at his age. All I feel now is infirmity humming in my bones like never before. A chronic fatigue that descends upon me in the mornings like never before. The years that I was a young, virile man are gone. Have I left too much to fate in my own children’s lives? Should I have protected them more when I had the chance? I am left to wonder. They have all surpassed the dreams I have had for them. Abigail has surrendered everything to the universe. She is a poet and a writer. Amber has made a success of her life. In everything she has set out to do.
She works in a bank as a research strategist. Ambrose is a businessman involved in playing at local politics the same position I found myself decades ago as a young man at the Bush University. Well, all three of them didn’t have the longing I did to have a London experience. Nora, has travelled a great deal. India, Thailand, North America. My pilgrimage came with running with scissors, impressions on student life at Western Cape, surveying the landscape that was London, winter trees in London, the long road to spirituality, and so I made gods out of my education at Bush University, UNISA, Rhodes, and London University. I worshiped the buildings behind those tall gates, and cathedral-like inspired spires. I found myself in London. Escaping from the wuthering heights of apartheid South Africa. Steve Biko’s Azania. I would look at White people in their perfumed European world, their airs and graces, the fat of the land on their lips. Fruit, olive oil, pasta, and tomatoes in their trolleys in the shiny aisles their supermarkets. Of course it wasn’t home to me. This new strange land.
And standing next to me was my friend, Mr. Jones. He became, in that year, my brother and anchor that cemented me, planted me in this foreign land’s soil.
And what still resides to this day in my heart besides our friendship, were the walls of those gardens made of stone, and everything that was healing. It was stick fighting days for me all over again. The hell of childhood trauma (the bullying on the playground, those playing fields). Selling peanuts. Selling newspapers for peanuts. A forest of pain tearing into me, through me on fire as I felt my father’s belt.
Black is not ugly. It is something quite quietly, and remarkably beautiful inside and out. It’s a river running through all of us.
Through this life force of a nation. Hemingway had Europe. Ambrose Cato George had London, had half of the world at his feet, and beside him he had Mceke Jones, the best friend, the best man that anybody could ask for. A comrade. He had a face as dark as an orchard at night, as night land, a postcard of war, the blurred lines on the gravestones in a cemetery through tears of suffering or rain, an oceans’ tides and currents rising up to meet a physical body of sea mist. And every dress that I saw in a shop’s window in London I pictured Gerda in it, when we’d be reconciled. Together again in each other’s company I convinced myself that would give me renewed strength, and vigour, and the depression would no longer dog me, terrify me.
Mceke Jones pictured my suffering although I can imagine that in his own way he did not have the words for it. But something inside of him made him feel empathy for the condition he sometimes found me in in the mornings. When I was beside myself, could not make it to breakfast in the canteen, it was Mr. Jones who saw to it that I had something to eat. He was a lovely man. I have never met anyone quite like him again in my life. He must have had a wonderful mother. Well, we never spoke much about our childhood dreams. I had just seen the advertisement in the newspaper by chance for scholarships to study abroad. I don’t even think we got around to asking each other how on earth we met under the circumstances we did. It’s lovely to dream. I would literally be in bed under the covers, and think hours away much to the consternation of the Portuguese cleaning lady who made the rooms in the dormitory tidy. I was in her way. She was in my personal space. I didn’t want to return to Gerda like that. A broken man. Wherever Mceke Jones is, I think he must be safely tucked away in a high position in government, or in retirement surrounded by his children and grandchildren.
Adored, highly inspiring his sons and daughters, his grandchildren to follow in his footsteps, to have that London experience. And I wonder to myself did he have that sunny road? Did he have rain on his wedding day? Did he swim in the sea with his wife, ever take his wife to the moveable feast of Paris, Hemingway’s Paris? Still I wonder about all of my dreams, all of the goals I’ve had. I’ve achieved much. Plenty.
I’ve achieved my potential, and then some. And other men, and women?
Are they happy? Are they fulfilled when they look around themselves?
Are they sated? Or are they sad, do they feel frustrated, downcast, or do they cast aspersions on other people? People well I see them every day. They walk past me with smiles on their faces or a downcast look in their eyes and I tell myself secretly that there’s a story there.
There’s a love story, or that person is haunted by something (perhaps by some of the same things that I was haunted by). And I look at my daughters, a young poet, and a young woman who works in a bank. I produced that. They’re walking around with my genes in them. Their offspring will have (there’s a good chance that it will happen) my genes in them.
This makes me happy, but it also makes me sad. And here is where my story begins to unfold. I saved the best of me till last. For my grandson Ethan. The heir to the throne. For my children, my beautiful wife, my daughter-in-law. This, this book is for you. Always remember that there is loveliness in the world around you, that the genius’s behaviour can exist for long periods in loneliness, and solitude, their vulnerability sometimes aches for company, that there is an internal struggle in both the introvert and the extrovert. Both can become the hypomanic leader, entrepreneur, and even the educationalist (as I once was), and particularly the actor. And so I come to my swan song. We live in a traumatic society. The fabric of the universe is changing as fast as the advances we are making in technology. Someday perhaps that technology will surpass humanity (although I pray that it doesn’t). Geniuses are always on a journey. People journey all the time. Some find themselves in self-imposed exile. Some travel to India, far off places where they can find themselves, journey within, discover themselves through meditation, self-discovery, self-actualisation, through that phenomena, that reality.
And that nature. But the fact of the matter is we are all born geniuses. What we do with that gift, that potential isn’t always up to us though as I discovered in my own life. I hope you will come to realise that like the genius you are always on a journey from spiritual poverty to a journey of self-discovery. This is my story. A memory of madness. Of suffering in silence. One man’s fable is another man’s parable is another man’s perspective in the flesh across a wilderness history carrying a survival guide with him. He hasn’t got his whole future ahead of him mapped out just yet. He can’t believe yet that he’s just met the woman he’s going to spend the rest of his life with. That they will be excited on their wedding day, but that their marriage will have its highs, and lows. This diary of madness is in praise of my mother. Her wisdom. There’s an insanity that borders on modern day humanity’s unquiet mind. An insanity that is never spoken of. When I grew up, some might say how that it was an idyllic childhood, but there was also an insanity that bordered on the Cheshire cat in Alice in wonderland. And so what was happening on the rest of the African continent became either a dream or a nightmare.
But it made no sense to me. It never reached my understanding, my sensibility, and the fragments of human bodies in war, reconciliation, and peace in the African Renaissance, the duplicity of the promulgation of the Group Areas Act, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The revolution (if ever there was one taking place at the height of White South Africa, at those wuthering heights of apartheid South Africa, was a revolution that was more of an unseen movement at the least. A revolution from within (like its counterpart in the West, feminism). Although women at the time of apartheid weren’t as liberated as their counterparts in the West. In life there are always choices. Sometimes you make the right life choices, and this brings you pleasure, but sometimes they bring you pain. And sometimes from lonely, humiliating experiences there will come a dream that you will never completely wake up from. Like marriage, a good woman who doesn’t believe in wearing sensible shoes. Goals can become as stale as a loaf of bread, that stuck record, leaving one eternally morally bankrupt, and sounds which were once familiar to each other like a man and woman embracing each other in front of their children, their muffled ‘I love you,’ hidden from view.
And you will begin to realise that love it changing everything once again in its path. Always hidden from view it is working from the outside, its private domain. There’s creativity in everything around you, particularly in sufferers of mental illness. At the end of the day whether you have a mental illness, experience a profound measure of loss, of longing to belong, we are all volcano dreamers. We have a bright faith that we transfer onto our children. I knew when and where I was not welcome, although it was difficult for me to realise it at the time in my most lucid moments. There was always the ballad of life to keep me company into the early hours of the morning, and so I became a man who became the curator of his children’s dreams. I think of my childhood friends. I think of them often. I miss them. You don’t get to travel light in this world if you have a mental illness. Flight from the illumined glare pharmaceuticals. Flight from the illumination of pain. Flight, flight, flight, is all that you can think of when illness descends.
Psychic, empath or psychosis
Rita is a woman who has had visions from childhood. At night she always left her bedroom door ajar, slept with the light on, with the bible under her pillow. She is visited by men and women who have passed on to the hereafter who think that they are still in some indefinable way connected, tethered to this world, this earthly plane and to the ones they have left behind. Children, husbands, spouses, pets. Slaves, and Masters.
She believes her auditory hallucinations are very, very real and that it is her duty, her moral obligation to record the conversations that she has with them be they writers and poets who have suffered the anguish and despair of suicidal depression (Assia Wevill, Sylvia Plath, David Foster Wallace, and Anne Sexton). Be they South African men and women detained during apartheid. We are living in changing times. Progress.
(Dulcie September, George Botha, Biko aka Frank Talk), men and women of African, British (Anna Kavan, Ann Quin), North American, Dominican descent (Jean Rhys) or from the Biblical era (for example Moses, Jonah and the whale, Elijah, Job, Noah, David, Solomon, and Jesus key figures in the history of civilization).This, she does fastidiously. Handwritten in black Croxley notebooks. I write in circles. Casting vertigo off.
But when people around her can see that she is different, special in a rather extraordinary way they begin to doubt her sanity and she is found to be certifiable, told that she should get plenty of rest, be put under psychiatric treatment and put under the care of a team of doctors. She soon though discovers her identity. Its borders in the powers of her own feminine sensuality, her ego. I was a slave to the vertigo of depression.
The perpetual balancing act between the psychological framework of her intelligence, and intellectualism, and the final analysis of the sexual transaction. With that said she rises to the occasion and meets her new life head under feet. She soon finds herself in the tiny one roomed library of the hospital and begins to read everything she can get her hands on from Doris Lessing but most importantly the genius poetry of T.S. Eliot.
Once she surrenders to the fact that everyone around her thinks that she has lost touch with reality she pursues love with an art second to none. She is or rather becomes Orlando in an asylum and finds that she must play her role in this establishment’s class, gender and economic system. She becomes a phenomenal African version of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. People in semi-autobiographical novels are based in reality.
Beautiful, wanted, adored, worshiped by men and women for her intellect in a dazed, confused world where pharmaceuticals, head doctors with textbook knowledge of case studies are the elixir, the essence of life. She negotiates the shark infested waters of having intimate relationships with both men and women acutely aware of the danger she finds herself in of engaging in licentious behaviour. Your reputation is an investment.
Of losing more than the fabric of her psyche, her soul. The safe world as she knew it as a child, youth and adult in her twenties. She finds herself in danger of losing everything.In the hospital Rita has flashbacks, embodies another personality that she, and her psychiatrist Dr Naomi Prinsloo calls ‘Julia’, she writes and she journals.Hurting people, hurt other people. Broken people, hurt broken people. Gifted people too.
Sometimes a child’s innocence is lost too soon, and by the time they reach adulthood they are unable to cope with the stressors of adult life and of being an adult. They revert to being children, or being treated like a child. A female of the gender persuasion will not be able to look after her children, love, listen, respect and admire her husband, support him through his long walk to spiritual and personal freedom.
The female is unable to do that through each magnitude of every choice her husband has to make. He wants and needs and desires love. So, if it is not forthcoming from his wife, the key to understanding and tolerating him, he feels lost, ashamed in the bedroom if the sexual impulse is not forthcoming from his wife in the bedroom. If the sexual stimulus that he needs is not forthcoming from his wife. To love, to love.
To love. Pour the memory of the mental cruelty. Poor the memory of that down on me.If felt so good to be touched by him. He made me feel so safe in his arms. And I longed to be in his company forever. Two words. Moses Molelekwa. The thing about being a tortured genius is very real. Your man is not going to be superhuman all of the time. Within every man is a bored and tortured genius waiting, for a life partner.
for the woman who will understand he is flawed. He also needs to be loved, understood. If you need therapy, and I’ve needed a lot of it over the years, make the call. (Think Hemingway and Salinger, brilliant men, tortured geniuses) who will live for posterity. You will live for posterity in the lives of your children, your wife at your side, the people that you work with. What is the legacy that you will leave behind?
Two words. Moses Molelekwa. The thing about being a tortured genius is very real. Your man is not going to be superhuman all of the time. Within every man is a bored and tortured genius waiting for the woman who will understand he is flawed. He also needs to be loved, understood. If you need therapy, and I’ve needed a lot of it over the years, make the call. Think Freud, Hemingway and Salinger, Rilke, and Nietzsche.
(All brilliant men, tortured geniuses) who will live for posterity. You will live for posterity in the lives of your children, your wife at your side, the people that you work with. What is the edge-of-your-seat legacy that you will leave behind in the lives of the people who love you, who care for you? I wish I could tell broken people that depression is just a season. That taking your own life, or, being in a rehab facility is a season.
The Reward of Having a Revolutionary Spirit
I’ve made mistakes. More than a few. I haven’t always apologised for my behaviour, for the mistakes I made, the wrong journey I took, the path less travelled. I am broken inside. I sometimes feel numb and dead inside when I exercise. Especially when I exercise. When I’m stressed out, I exercise a lot. I watch films. I read poetry. I write poetry. But these days it just feels as if I can’t carry out the simplest of tasks. I feel that nobody really loves me for me. I think of Elvis, I think of Sinatra, I think of Sammy Davis Junior. I think of their friendship. The bonds between them. They were brothers. They had each other’s backs. They looked out for one another. They loved each other. I do not know what love is. It feels like a burden.
Growing up my mother loved herself. Narcissist I think is the correct term. Always in heels and a G-string. Sexed up.My father was an absent father by all accounts. But, to all intents and purposes her gave me a happy life, a happy childhood. So, I am taking the memories wherever I go. Wherever, whenever, and I mean the happiest memories I’ve had, I still have, are the moments I spent with my father. Eating ice cream, going to the beach, visiting the clinical psychologist, buying the month’s groceries, playing under his desk at work. My father’s friends were my friends. The people that knew my father, knew me from a young age. Precocious and cute, always wanting to make people with sad eyes laugh, and if I couldn’t get them to laugh.
I would get them to smile at least. When I was born before the eighties, George Botha passed away that year, from an apparent suicide. Biko slipped on a bar of soap. Dulcie September (I wonder what her children would have been like, her husband, would she have settled in London, married a man who had green, or blue eyes. Rick Turner was assassinated by a man with a gun (they haven’t found him yet), Kevin Carter was killed by a stray bullet as he was taking pictures of the unrest in the townships during the brutal heights of the heyday of apartheid. Political activists of colour were being arrested at every turn. Turn the corner, walk in the opposite direction someone, someone would be following you. We have life, down the slope of life, and up the hill.
The Americans I think termed that phrase Big Brother is watching you, or else it could have been anyone really. I’m young, but I have an old soul. Yes, I read poetry. Yes, I read books too. Basically, anything I can get my hands on. I love getting my hands dirty in the kitchen. The cake flour, the dough I eat off my fingers, dust the doughnuts with icing sugar, or cocoa, keeping busy, busy, busy, trying not to think, trying not to think of anyone, or anything. It is a long, long way to Rapunzel, Rimbaud, Verlaine, Proust, Nabokov, Salinger, Rilke, Akhmatova, and Coco Chanel. It is an even longer distance to Billy Graham, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Neville Alexander, Fikile Bam, Patrice Motsepe.
My thoughts pay attention to ex-president Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, ex-president Thabo Mbeki, ex-president Jacob Zuma, and president-elect Cyril Ramaphosa. Then I think of the land of the free, and the home of the brave, and the American presidents (the leaders of the free world), George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, JFK, Thomas Jefferson, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. Nobody knows anything really about their childhood. Rapunzel, like all fairy tales, like the Native Americans, and the Eastern Cape poets Ayanda Billie, Robert Berold, Brian Walter, Mzi Mahola, the late Arthur Nortje, the late Dennis Brutus, Mxolisi Nyezwa, they are all frozen in the snow of my memory. I want people to love me.
Just like my dad. People love daddy. People loved daddy. But inside I am sad. I am not even loved in my own home. My mother hates me. How to get over the mental cruelty, her un-loveliness to me over the years, her utter humiliation of me when she saw how close me and dad were getting. She was in the house, put on a disappearing act whenever I appeared. I tell myself that nobody loves me. That I’m a rubbish-throw-away-type of person. Nobody should associate themselves with me. I have no self-esteem, then low self-esteem. Sleep around. No, not really. I just give expert hand jobs, and I never kiss. Never. Too intimate, it makes me feel vulnerable, and when you kiss someone there are just so many levels to it, you know.
The first kiss. Well, you always remember that. You always remember the person who first kissed your lips. And after that, after that you open your warm mouth (I think of everything as an experiment, an adventure, an exploration of sorts). They have all gone out into the world now. The wives have done what is impossible for me. Given the boys children. That, that, that right there is too much for me to take, to handle, although I know I will survive. Believe me, I survive without cocaine and alcoholism, without sexuality and the sexual transaction (as Jean Rhys said in After Leaving Mr Mackenzie. I endure with the best of them. I love like the greats. The great singers and songwriters (the late Karen Carpenter), musicians. (Lenny Kravitz, Fiona Apple).
I too have been careless with the hearts of delicate people. Some have moved on with their lives, and have forgotten all about me. I pretend to wake up in the mornings to the legends that the boys have become. They are men who rule empires now. They have forgotten all about me, forsaken me for money, prosperity, prestige, status (I’m mixing up my similes here). I miss them. I miss them like crazy. I wish I was back there, not here. Each and every day in Johannesburg was either a summer-ish day, or winter. I wish I was in love again, but I’m not. I’m a wreck. Still the same wreck I was 20 years ago. I’m growing older. I’m in my forties now. What a terrible age. The onset of menopause, flashbacks to a time and place when you were happier.
When you could afford to make mistakes, behave foolishly, and love, love, love, and dance the night away with multiple partners on your arms, but I didn’t know about the world. Didn’t know anything about the world. So, mothers, be good to your daughters. They will learn to love like you do. I don’t know anything about that. I don’t know anything about love. I can smoke, I can drink when I hang out with the guys. I love men. Women ignore me. Women talk down to me. Women humiliate me in front of their children, mother-in-law, and especially, especially their boyfriends, their husbands, life partners. You know that kind of girl. You know that kind of woman. She’s beautiful, exceptional-looking. She dresses down.
She dresses up. I’m that kind of woman now. Can someone hear my plea? Anyone, anyone? Anyone out there? All I ever wanted was for my mother to tell me how much she loved me, how proud she was of me, and she didn’t. Still doesn’t to this day. And I hate violence of any kind, even in films. I still believe in what Walt Disney proclaimed. It is my mantra still to this day. I believe in family values. I guess it is the principle behind it. Norms and values. Growing up with norms and values. A kind of belief system, even though I did go to Sunday School, and memorise Bible verses, and was indoctrinated into religion by the Union Congregational Church,(I’m not religious anymore, although I still pray, still meditate.
I still believe in reconciliation, and as such there is evil in the world, but there is also the greater good). Anyway, I am much more of a spiritual person now, from an early age I believed in angels. Truth for some, but not truth for all. I believe in the qualities of a good Christian, Brahmin, Yogi, Hindu, Muslim, Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, and Catholic. All religions hold truth at the cornerstones of their foundation. So, instead of making war, think instead (this is for all the world leaders, mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters out there), make peace (keep the peace in the house, reconcile your differences, sit at the table and break bread, talk about your day, don’t isolate yourself from either your family, or your community). Be kind.
You can kill with kindness you know. Today that person could be your enemy, tomorrow (as the ancients, prophets, saints, angels say) that same enemy could be your friend. Money and wealth won’t make you beautiful. Inner beauty, understanding and understanding devotion to others less fortunate than yourself, the marginalised, downtrodden, those living in poverty-stricken areas in dire straits give them your peace too, and something to eat. The game of life is made up of winners and losers. The loser always forgets about the lesson that they have learned. The winner takes it all. Always remember it is how you play the game. Life is precious. People are precious too. We are only human at the end of the day.
Once, they said that someday technology will surpass humanity. Code breakers, the women and men who serve countries around the world, and who are willing to sacrifice their lives for millions of people). I think also of scientists like Sir Isaac Newton, Niels Bohr, Max Planck, Pavlov, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie (twice-winner) of the Nobel Prize. I think of researchers dealing with computers, information communication technology, indigenous knowledge systems, the great digital divide between the haves and the have nots (first world countries and third world countries). I think of intellectuals like Pliny the Elder, Aristotle, Hippocrates, Homer, and Plato. Isn’t every intellectual an authority on philosophy, education.
Subjects as diverse and varied (Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo), as the holistic vision of an educationalist, community leader, humanist, activist, volunteer, just as much as a person can be plumber, he can also be a storyteller (everybody has a story to tell), and a poet. His name can be Yusuf Agherdien, Ambrose Cato George, and Shaheed Hendricks (the writers of the book South End: As We Knew It, although District Six in Cape Town is more well-known when it comes to the promulgation of the Group Areas Act). They can even be the curator, and a writer-visionary-maverick of the world-famous museum, the South End Museum, that has its roots in Saint Helena. An island in the middle of the ocean, that could only in the past be reached by a Royal Mail Ship that sailed from Cape Town to Saint Helena. Are we still slaves, our minds enslaved?
Enslaved by oppression and racism, prejudice and gangsterism, the abuse of alcohol and mental cruelty? It has become a global phenomenon. It has become a buzzword. In my mind, we are all then victims of circumstance, of trauma, of incidents that happened in our childhood. And yes, we fall prey to evil deeds, and evil thoughts, we sin, and sometimes we pray and ask for forgiveness, and sometimes we don’t. We don’t learn the lesson; we would rather abscond. Go our own way. For some of us, this is all we know. Running away from loss and grief, denial and instigation, and when we do that we are motivated by our own fear, anxiety, even insanity (which means two things, break from reality, or non-reality).
When you’re in high school all you want to do is hang with the popular crowd, go out with the most popular boy in school, obtain high marks, achieve on the sports field and inside the classroom. I was an obsessive-compulsive achiever, and the only people I wanted to impress were the women in my family. The women make babies, and stay at home, cook and clean, raise their family, but in my world the husband was always marrying the mistress.We know the affect that climate change has had on the seasons, harvests, running water, rain, sanitation, and it spells disaster in all areas. Floods, tornadoes, tsunamis, storms, drought which affects our farmers, and particular our agriculture all over the world. I digress.
I come back to those two words again. Global phenomenon. We are reaching a climatic stage of events in world history. Ask yourself these questions, think about them, ponder them as you would any project that is highly creative, and imaginative, that needs you to focus, and concentrate. Put all your energies into it, as you would your children’s lives, and your husband’s or wife’s welfare. What is your legacy, will it be hidden from view, or be there for all to see? What is your calling, your purpose in life, what are you extremely passionate about (I must have asked myself these questions thousands of times, and so, no, I’m not exaggerating)? What are your empirical dreams, lofty goals, pre-imminent plans? Are you concerned about the spiritual welfare of others, as I am?
Sola Osofisan’s masterpiece ‘Blood Will Call’: A bowl of green apples, and a book review
“And as imagination bodies forth the forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing; a local habitation and a name.”-William Shakespeare
‘Blood Will Call’ is a beautiful book that promises the planting of the seasons faded out with the elegant winter, complex, and complicated summer, spring, and autumns, escapism, hurting, and wounded lives.
People who have to take stock of the exit route out. There’s abuse, there’s mediocrity, there’s average, there’s people living on the edge, addicted to the void of waiting, the darkness of existentialism, the apron strings of the kitchen, the reincarnation of ghost, illusion, and apparition. Don’t think of me as volcano, the woman seems to say, the girlchild, clouds wherever they fix their eyes.
There is legacy.
But there are also proponents for change, grief-stricken hearts, impoverished, disadvantaged, and marginalized circumstances. There is forgiveness, tenderness, vertigo, karmic accounts, and debts that have to be paid, and the analysis of scandal, and love story. Rituals of innocence, and wisdom to keep them company. I always wonder about the writer’s routine. Just the thought of this writer hurt me.
I thought of the writer’s anguish, in much the same way I thought of all the characters in the book, their anguish. It played a major role for me. Then came their sadness in a supporting role. Is the writer a morning person, an afternoon person, or an evening person? Do they write into the lonely hours of early morning? What was the object of the writer’s affection, the subjects they framed so imaginatively?
For not the first time in my life, when it came to reviewing a book, I ran away. I danced away from the writer’s vision for his book. This book was a crazy love, and the people in this book didn’t often obey the laws of human nature, or the rules of the game, or know when to say please, or thank you. This book was a boat journey into fire, a river of fire, the flames licking at the canvas of my bare feet.
It was a crossing into the divide of sleeping, and dreaming, thought, and meditation, prayer, and vision. You see the writer’s mind at work, a filmmaker’s vision, a poet’s meditation, a short story writer’s dreaming away. So, the book is acrobatic, intense, hectic, and there’s conflict, and drama that never leaves the page, but you get taken from point to principle, from one identity crisis to the next.
The women have an uninhibited desire for courage, savvy, sass, even when they are at their most vulnerable. They are armed with intuition, persuasion, greatness, supernatural memory, and desire. I paid critical attention to these women, these mothers with their large haunting eyes, they’re not party people, they’re not beach people, they’re people who go off to war every day of their lives.
Yet, there’s something beautiful about them. In their pain, their humiliation, the drudgery of their lives, they take you from the beginning of this book of short stories to the end, and you are wanting them to overcome their circumstances through any means necessary. And I think to myself, this is a Frantz Fanon, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Ben Okri writing here. What now of the valley we’re in.
We’re dreaming that our books, our pen, our sword if you will, will hit the mark, will hit the ground running, and there’s the belief that our books will fascinate audiences, and we dream as Africans from the east to the west in poetry, we write our novels, and short stories in poetry, we envision that now is the time. The plausible time for the possible, and impossible, the time for Africans not to be soft targets.
It is difficult for African novelists, and short story writers to publish their books. The world has gone gaga over Nigerian female writers, but where are the male writers. They’re there. It’s just that favor, and increase has yet to work for them in the same way that it has for someone like Chimamanda Adichie. Sola Osofisan, I don’t think that you really understand what you’ve done. You’ve changed everything. I see African on the screen of my mind. I see Nigeria on the screen of my mind.
The writer taught me that God will put entities in your path either to obstruct you, destroy you, sabotage you, destroy you, or uplift, empower you, and make you selfless, giving, gifted visionary. The book is a journey. The book is a spiritual journey. Sola Osofisan has a destiny, a kingdom, and in these pages, I took a knowledge from, lessons from my father, stories from my mother. There’s personal fulfillment here on these pages.
There were chapters from my childhood. Things I didn’t want to remember, but I remembered the lesson. Don’t waste the pain. Kill your enemies with kindness. Things happen in life. Things happen in Africa.
Mostly negative things happen to women, and girl children in Africa.
But they wake up in the morning, the country is still there. There’s a truly wonderful feeling in the air for me right now. Sola Osofisan is Herculean, an Aristotle-in-the-making.
Anybody who writes is creative, but few writers, creatives are historians, researchers, perfect illustrators at interpreting the past injustices of their country. I don’t need the world to love me after eight books. I have the same message for Sola Osofisan. Go on, comrade. Don’t quit, compatriot. Write as if you are living on the edge of the world, as if it’s the end times. Don’t give up your passion.
I’ve discovered the African Renaissance in Sola Osofisan, his brave world, his artistry, his flawless writing, profound technique, and style, and there’s chaos, hysteria, spiritual sensitivity that he brings to his writing. It is dazzling, and sure, hectic, and pure, as he describes the landscape of life, of what matters, mapping it all out for the reader, and it seems as if I have waited forever to read a book like this. There’s conditioned thinking, church, indoctrinated religion, theologians that are still there.
From the first page the characters hover in plain sight like the music of the night. They are anointed, and enigmatic (nurturers, caretakers, products of neo-colonialism that awaken others to insight, loneliness, curbing their enthusiasm for the disgruntled, the downtrodden, miserable pain of their lives). There is something frightening about the reality and non-reality of these stories.
How these people are blessed by their enemies even. The stories are filled with movement like dance, moving rhetoric that represents the unseen system, and a country that is as captivating as a symphony orchestra. I think of the aspects of almost prophetic vision that the people in these stories have. Forgive them. Forgive Sola Osofisan for taking you there. When you’re exhausted, take a break, inhale the aromas of the food cooking on the fire, exhale the happy days that these people will never have.
You just know that you are in the hands of a master-storyteller. More than imprint burned on brain, more like a ghost. I miss you more than most on some days, just thinking of the very thought of you. The book came to me in blooming flowers, in energetic silhouettes, in evolving waves, in vibrations, marking its intelligence in rotation in fulltime observation, great expectations of greatness in study.
Yes, the awareness of something evil is also out there asking for the taking. We live our lives in denial. That denial has become a pastime whenever we are figuring out the hurting in our lives, who was involved with the hurt, why’d it has to impact us so, hit us so hard.
I love this writer who displays in one heart the fugitive spirit of humanity, in one soul survival, and endurance, and fear and anxiety in the rural wilderness of the countryside in Africa. This is not an African book by far. It is a Nigerian book.
Nigerian creatives are using every story that they’ve heard from childhood, that has doors that lead to intimacy, and frustration, that navigate you towards health, and homesickness, a basket case, and the decay found in the wild. Camp out in ‘Blood Will Call’ but don’t get too comfortable. Soon a forcefield will hit you. The man you don’t want to marry, risk, adventure, and radiance. You can never predict the direction in which this writer goes. It is not the weather.
This writer eats the crumbs from our masters’ table, the dust of the colonial masters’ until it feels like home, with his angel tongue. I am a writer who understands the anatomy of loneliness, and the explicit, controversial, seed-language of blood. The book will grant you a revolutionary kiss on the lips, it is intellectual-magic, on so many levels political, breaking and un-breaking diplomacy, negotiation, and reconciliation.
Now a few words about Sola Osofisan, the writer of ‘Blood Will Call’.
In Africa, in tales of folklore, in the tradition, culture, background, heritage of oral storytelling, passing stories from one generation to the next, there is always a woman involved. Now we have a man. Not just any man. We have a maverick-extraordinaire who knows when to make a gracious exit in-and-out of these relationships. He’s conscientizing an entire generation.
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