Jess and I with Chigozie Obioma’s two books. Photo: African Press Club
Dateline: Eixample, Barcelona, Spain
By Chiogor Constance Ikokwu
I love celebrations. That probably comes with being Nigerian, if not African. We’re a people of merriment. No matter the circumstance, we more often than not, find joy in life.
So, last Thursday met me sipping a glass of cava (Spanish champagne), laughing, chatting and munching away on deliciously homemade chips at the bar of an Italian restaurant. What was the occasion?
Nigerian writer Chigozie Obioma’s second book An Orchestra of Minorities has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2019. Elated, his literary agent Jess Craig had two days prior invited me to a small gathering to mark this major milestone.
Confession: I didn’t know the Booker Prize is such a big deal. Apparently, it is. Jess’s excitement is topped by the fact that Chigozie is the only author among his peers who made the shortlist back-to-back with his first and second book. At 33, he is also the youngest on this year’s list, I was told. How awesome is that?
Life is an interesting basket that is constantly being weaved with unexpected results. Without a doubt, it was a delight to celebrate with others last week. But a month ago, I would not have imagined myself in Il Giardinetto (the restaurant) on this particular night clinking champagne glasses in honour of an author that I was previously unaware of.
My journey to Il Giardinetto began in July with an introduction to Jess by a mutual friend. We had agreed to meet for coffee to discuss my upcoming event for the African Press Club. It was at this encounter that I learnt of Chigozie Obioma’s novels. Jess narrated her journey to becoming Chigozie’s literary agent, her introduction to African literature, fascination about younger African writers (she had read pioneers like Chinua Achebe) and her excitement for what the future holds.
That meeting ended with a copy of Chigozie’s first book The Fishermen in my bag. One Sunday afternoon, I strolled to a nearby café and flipped open the first page. I could not put it down thereafter. Each page heightened the suspense, thereby keeping me hooked. Soon, I finished my coffee, asked for a glass of juice and kept going.
The setting, characters, plot, theme, style, and tone of The Fishermen are incredible. The writer has a strong command of language. He successfully meanders the world of spirituality, mythology, culture, cosmology, love, hate and family. It’s a story that is sad and funny at the same time. Anyone born in Nigeria and maybe Africa, in general will be familiar with anecdotes therein.
It’s a great novel. I’ll grab a copy of his second book An Orchestra of Minorities with high expectations.
I am particularly pleased that there are many African writers making us proud. The baton passed on by icons such as Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Flora Nwapa, Mariama Ba, Ayi Kwei Armah, Buchi Emechata, Amos Tutoula, Elechi Amadi, Ama Ata Aidoo, Cyprain Ekwensi, Binyavanga Wainana among others, is certainly being upheld.
Thanks, Jess for an introduction to Chigozie Obioma’s literary world. He has a fan right here!! I hope that he wins the Booker Prize 2019. That will be an excellent reward for hard work.
An Orchestra of Minorities and The Fishermen are available on Amazon. Have a wonderful week everyone!