Writings of the general word's body

Monday, June 04, 2007

Bandele's Burma Boy

From Giles Foden's review of Biyi Bandele's new novel, Burma Boy...
Another pleasure is the sheer exuberance of Banana's own rhetoric. Here he is discovering, on arriving in India, that he is to be a muleteer: "'Mules?' Ali gasped as if he'd been stung by a driver ant. 'Do you know who I am? I'm the son of Dawa the king of well-diggers whose blessed nose could sniff out water in Sokoto while he's standing in Saminaka. I'm the son of Hauwa whose mother was Talatu whose mother was Fatimatu queen of the moist kulikuli cake, the memory of whose kulikuli still makes old men water at the mouth till this day. Our people say that distance is an illness; only travel can cure it. Do you think that Ali Banana, son of Dawa, great-grandson of Fatima has crossed the great sea and travelled this far, rifle strapped to his shoulder, to look after mules?'"

- Foden's review was published in the Guardian's Review of Saturday 2nd June. Read it here.

Femi Osofisan, James Gibbs & Biyi Bandele - photographed @ the British Library, 16 October 2005 © MW


In my article published last year (July 30, 2006; The Guardian, Lagos)Bandele talked about Burma Boy. Excerpt...
Bandele’s novel, The Street, is set in multi-ethnic Brixton, South London, where he once lived. "A lot of novels about Brixton tended to be by people living elsewhere," and ended up being "superficial takes" on the area. "When I lived in Brixton, there were a lot of creative people there who couldn’t afford to live elsewhere." Bandele wrote about such people.

His upcoming novel, Burma Boy, is set in Burma. "It is about my father’s generation during World War II (WWII)." It will focus on Nigerians but will not dwell much on Nigeria itself. "I don’t write about the Nigerian government anymore because I don’t live there; it would be hypocritical." Set in 1943, Burma Boy features two flashbacks, one to 1936 and the other to 1896. "I find I keep going back to the past to make sense of the present."

Bandele described the novel as "the story I’ve been preparing to write for a long time." An account of WWII as told by his father, was probably the first story Bandele ever heard. The author’s father returned from the war on April 1st 1945 and often talked about the experience. "It took control of him till the day he died," the writer informed. "I suppose listening to him made me want to write."

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