Writings of the general word's body

Monday, September 03, 2007

On Afolabi's 'Goodbye Lucille'

Excerpt from Toyin Akinosho's Artsville Column...

Goodbye Lucille - Is This The Same Writer?
Segun Afolabi's Monday Morning, the short story which delivered the Caine Prize to him in 2005, feels like a slow, tentative story of an immigrant uncertain of his new space. With another deliberative short story in The Obituary Tango, an anthology of Caine Prize entries, it is easy to assume that Afolabi would come
to be known as a "soft", carefully measured stylist. The publisher Muhtar Bakare actually describes the Kaduna born scribe as "restrained and.. subtle". But first impressions aren't always a complete take. Afolabi's just published first novel, Goodbye Lucille, about another immigrant in Europe, begins with a furious pace, such that four distinct characters had shown up by the second page; Vincent, the struggling photographer who is at the heart of the story; his girlfriend Lucille who he left behind in London to hustle in Berlin; Marie, the magazine editor and Henrich Henkleman, the politician whose murder sets much of the tone of this 308 page narrative. And in less than 1,000 words, all of these characters are already sufficiently described we can picture what they are. Farafina's decision to publish Goodbye Lucille is in sync with its tradition of seeking out Nigerian winners in publishing houses in Europe and America and giving them audience at home. The same principle informs the company's release of the Nigerian version of Biyi Bandele's Burma Boy and much earlier, Chimamanda Adichie's Half Of A Yellow Sun. Such strategy certainly serves a socially responsible purpose; a growing tribe of Nigerian writers live and write abroad and they are getting the attention of European and American critics as they beat western writers hands down in contest for some of the most important literary awards. But it is easy for these authors not to be known in their home country, as the publishing houses don't think very highly of having outlets in the supposedly dark continent. To the extent that most of these stories are essentially Nigerian, Farafina fulfils the need of letting the home audience get more than a glimpse into life in the diaspora. In November, these sort of stories will form the basis for a panel discussion: Writing In: Tales From The Diaspora, which will feature readings, reviews and discussions around Afolabi's Monday Morning, Biyi Bandele's The Street, Chimamanda Adichie's That Thing Around Your Neck, Diana Evans' 26A, Helen Oyeyemi's The Icarus Girl and Diran Adebayo's Some Kind Of Black. This conversation is one of the main events of the 9th Lagos Book And Art Festival, holding at the National Theatre from November 9-11.

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