He Estonians and I have read Romain Gary s La danse de Gengis Cohn which tells us about the Polish Jews I have read Jonathan R e s I See a Voice which tells us about the worldwide Deaf community Now I have read Chigozie Obioma s account of the Nigerians These people s stories have many elements in common and one of the most obvious is that their languages have been systematically suppressed The Soviets made Russian the language of administration and business when they were occupying Estonia Teachers punished Deaf children who tried to use sign language I was not surprised to read that the British punished Nigerians who used African languagesWhen one people decides to eradicate another they sometimes just ill them as the Germans did with the Polish Jews and the Spaniards did with the pre Columbian inhabitants of the Caribbean islands You can find a great deal about this in Jens Bj rneboe s Bestialitetens historie But most often they can t uite bring themselves to go this far and they find they can achieve their ends almost as well by eradicating the subject people s language and culture they are pleased to discover that some of their subjects cooperate The thing that makes When the Doves Disappeared so horrifying is the way Edgar willingly turns himself into an efficient tool first of the Nazis and then of the Bolsheviks And similarly what makes An Orchestra of Minorities so horrifying is that the truly cruel and despicable things that happen are not done by White people They are done by Black people who have internalised the values and language of the White people and come to despise their own culture s values and language The book fights back by setting its action in the world of traditional Igbo culture a world most of its readers will The Southern Belles of Honeysuckle Way know nothing about I certainly didn t Characters often speak for a sentence or two in Igbo or pidgin to remind the reader that if you re an Igbo whose family hasn t managed to find the money to send you to university this is what it s like you hear words perhaps important words in the White man s language and you don t understand them Most memorably the narrator is the central character s chi What is a chi We don t have this concept in our spiritual universe It is not a Christian soul or guardian angel and it is not a Hindu atman It is a little bit like all of these but only a little bit Really it is something different and even after reading the book I have only a very partial understanding of what a chi is It is another person who is both part of you and not part of you who has been alive before you were born as part of other people and will be alive after you are dead So how can any of this make a book which a Westerner can find not just worthwhile but compelling I stayed up until 1 am last night finishing it Somehow the author has done a strange and remarkable thing He has learned to grasp our language and culture and even love it but without letting go of his own He has taken this alien universe with its incomprehensible language and he has transposed it into gorgeous and poetic English He has pushed open a door between our two world just a crack but that is already a huge achievement and we look through that crack and are amazed We think this is something completely new I have never seen anything like it Thank you Chigozie Obioma If only there were people like you Anti hero CheckDramatic irony CheckHomer s Odyssey Not so much All who have been chained and beaten whose lands have been plundered whose civilizations have been destroyed who have been silenced raped shamed andilled With all these people he d come to share a common fate They were the minorities of this world whose only recourse WAS TO JOIN THIS UNIVERSAL IN WHICH ALL to join this universal orchestra in which was to do was cry and wail Right from the start of An which was to do was cry and wail Right from the start of An of Minorities we now that the main character Nonso a humble poultry farmer has done something very bad but we don t yet now what it is His chi a sort of guardian spirit is interceding with the Igbo deity on Nonso s behalf and this chi narrates the tale of Nonso s downfall like a courtroom lawyer stating his case for the defence What gradually unfolds is a love story and a tragedy shot through with Igbo cosmology and traditionNonso the chicken guy meets the beautiful educated worldly Ndali but her wealthy paren A story should glide like a yacht not bump along like a supermarket trolley MeHaving seen a profusion of rapturous reviews for this African tale I had very high hopes And what a gorgeous title too I was beguiled and ready to be seduced Let me at it I criedHurrr rrr chh A screech of brakes or a needle skidding on vinylAlas I just didn t take to it I The Confident Woman: How to Take Charge and Recharge Your Life know I m a fusspot but I really didn t warm to it And for that I m truly sorryThe omniscient narrator a guardian spirit waffled on in a simplistic writing style that had me rolling my eyes and wishing we could bring a resuscitation team of literary greats back from the dead The first few chapters were all exposition and there was nothing here that resembled an actual story Our ethereal narratorept repeating I had seen it many times To which I retorted Yes you ve said it many times too you insufferable parrotAnd relaxNamasteSo while the cosmic blather continued with little sign of anything resembling dialogue or human interaction on the horizon I shimmied into a lifebuoy and prepared to jump ship Happily a story began to emerge And a very promising one at that a tale of Nonso Olisa an ill starred Nigerian poultry farmer who falls in love with a woman who as a result of being jilted was intent on throwing herself off a bridgeAh ha That s like it I cheered casting off my lifebuoy and getting myself nice and comfyAuspiciously the author began to move through his literary gears fashioning a contemporary Greek tragedy that suggested it might finally live up to its star billing and what eventually happens to our unworldly chicken farmer when he relocates to Cyprus is a complete volte face from the book s uneventful opening chapters The scene was set and I was ready to give it a second chanceBut d oh Again with the exposition Chigozie Obiama snatches defeat from the jaws of victory by reintroducing yet explanatory notes groan that are surely surplus to reuirements There s a potentially moving human story here that needs to be told A thorough edit and word cull would have done this novel a power of good The story continued to advance like a slug through treacle and despite his terrible woes I lost all sympathy for the hapless main character he was largely the architect of his own downfall I rooted for Ndali the lady from the bridge much The pacing throughout remained leaden and I really struggled to get to the finishing line In my humble opinion Salman Rushdie Midnight s Children and Gabriel Garc a M ruez One Hundred Years of Solitude do first person and third person narrative storytelling so much better But as you can see by its plethora of laudatory reviews Chigozie Obiama s book delights a great many of his readers so I m almost certain you should take what I ve said with a pinch of salt and dive right inHave a lifebuoy ready though just in cas. Sessions to attend college in Cyprus But when he arrives in Cyprus he discovers that he has been utterly duped by the young Nigerian who has made the arrangements for him Penniless homeless we watch as he gets further and further away from his dream and from home.
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Read following its longlistingAs part of my re read I came across two articles in the Millions by the author which I found very helpful for understanding the writing style that the author has deployed is and it s very deliberate contrast in its expansive prose and layers of reality to what he sees as the minimalism and literalness that has come to dominate much Western literature Both articles locate his writing firmly in a Nigerian tradition and appear a conscious effort to portray himself as a successor to Chinua Achebe Given a number of the expansive books on the longlist I feel that the judges may agree with his take which is a fascinating read and starts In one of his essays the late Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe stated that no one be fooled by the fact that we write in English for we intend to do unheard of things with it That we is in essence an authoritative oratorical posture that cast him as a representative of a group a indred of writers who either by design or fate have adopted English as the language of literary composition With these words it seems that to Achebe the intention to do unheard of things with language is a primary factor in literary creation He is right And this should be the most important factorhttpsthemillionscom20170293351 which starts Like most other art forms fiction has undergone many configurations over the years but its core has remained as always the aesthetic pleasure of reading When we read we connect to the immaterial source of the story through its outstretched limbs The limb or variants of it are what the writer has deemed fit for us to see to gaze at and admire It is not often the whole But one of the major ways in which fiction has changed today from the second half of the 20th century especially is that most of its fiction reveals all its limbs to us all at once Nothing is hidden behind the esoteric wall of mystery or metaphysicsORIGINAL REVIEW A poultry farmer named Jamike Nwaorji having groomed him for some time having plucked excess feathers from his body having fed him with mash and millet having let him graze about gaily having probably staunched a leg wounded by a stray nail had now sealed him up in a cage And all he could do now all there was to do now was cry and wail He had now joined many others all the people Tobe had listed who have been defrauded of their belongings the Nigerian girl near the police station the man at the airport all those who have been captured against their will to do what they did not want to do either in the past or the present all who have been forced into joining an entity they do not wish to belong to and countless others All who have been chained and beaten whose lands have been plundered whose civilisations have been destroyed who have been silenced raped shamed and illed With all these people he d come to share a common fate They were the minorities of this world whose only recourse was to join this universal orchestra in which all there was to do was cry and wail The author s first book and debut novel The Fishermen p Now Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2019I feel torn between the considerable merit of this tale about the loss of dignity and the fact that I had a very hard time finishing the book because of its repetitiveness and its excessive love for overly detailed descriptions For what it has to say this novel is at least 200 pages too long Obioma tells the story of Chinonso a young Nigerian poultry farmer who falls in love with Ndali a student of pharmacy Ndali s family does not accept Chinonso because of his lack of education so he sells all of his belongings in order to travel to Northern Cyprus he was told that he could get a college degree there But things do not turn out as planned Obioma does a fantastic job when it comes to describing the importance of personal dignity for the human soul Again and again Chinonso is confronted with degradation and cruelty and he desperately tries to overcome or at least psychologically deal with it In Nigeria Ndali s family of social climbers does not grant him the respect he deserves for being a farmer a sentiment which he internalizes in Cyprus he is a black foreigner who gets caught up in the system thus the book also touches upon the experiences of African immigrants It is certainly no coincidence that Chinonso travels to Northern Cyprus not the Republic of Cyprus Not only did the author really meet a fellow Nigerian man in Northern Cyprus whose destiny inspired him to write this book Chinonso also strands right at the border of the EU but cannot cross into it only the Republic of Cyprus is a member state Chinonso s travels are very loosely based on The Odyssey but will Ndali his Penelope wait for him What sets Obioma s book his Penelope wait for him What sets Obioma s book from the classic European tale is among other things the narrator We hear the whole story from the point of view of Chinonso s chi his guardian spirit which stands at the center of Igbo cosmological belief The author has explained that he wanted to challenge the Western conception of agency His book s central character has only limited agency because the chi points to the dimension of destiny beyond human control This is certainly a fascinating narrative concept especially for Westerners like me who are largely unfamiliar with Igbo culture but to my ears the very particular voice of the chi which freuently breaks the narrative flow by uttering rather long general philosophical musings was sometimes a little hard to bear especially the relentless repetition of its signature sentence I have seen it many times I admit that at some point I wanted to slap Chinonso s seen it many times I admit that at some point I wanted to slap Chinonso s for repeating this one sentence over and over and over again On the other hand Obioma intended to break with Western traditions of writing so there is certainly the factor of Western readers struggling with his approach that influences the reading experience and that absolutely can t be held against the author As the story progresses it becomes clear why the chi insists on giving us all and I mean ALL the details about its host Chinonso and what happened to him but guys this is one looooooooooong book that outstays its welcome if it was shorter I m sure it would have a higher impact The topic of dignity is one of the most urgent in our current political climate it is at the core of uestions like migration the culture wars identity politics etc Chinonso is just one member of the Orchestra of Minorities which is made up by millions of people worldwide who have to fight for their dignity So I
wish I could have loved this novel but ultimately it buried an urgent topic under many words If the prey do not produce their version of the tale the predators will always be the heroes in the story of the hunt says the uotation which opens this unusual and beautiful novel and indeed we come to understand that the minorities in its title are the prey so often voiceless who are now precariously recovering their ability to bear witness I like this attitude I like to hear about people who have been trampled on by history but fought back Recently I have read Sofi Oksanen s When the Doves Disappeared which tells us about F his prized chickens off the bridge The woman Ndali is stopped in her tracksChinonso and Ndali fall in love but she is from an educated and wealthy family When her family objects to the union on the grounds that he is not her social eual he sells most of his pos. .really wish I could have loved this novel but ultimately it buried an urgent topic under
This is a beautifully written story a love story an odyssey and ultimately a tragedy Set in Umuahi Nigeria and Cyprus it is the life story of Chinonso Solomon Olisa a young poultry farmer who falls in love with a beautiful young woman far above him in class In order to marry her he sells everything he owns so that he might get a college education but things go horribly wrong for him one after anotherWhat makes this story so unusual is that it is narrated by Chinonso s chi or guardian spirit who has gone before the ancient god of many names to explain Chinonso s actions so that he won t be judged too harshly The title An Orchestra of Minorities comes up many times in the story the first and to me the most touching of these is when Chinonso explains to his love Ndali Obialor that the chickens sing a song of mourning for the one among their flock who has gone in this case taken by a hawk His father always called that an orchestra of minorities He was always saying the chickens now that is all they can do crying and making the sound ukuuukuu Ukuuukuu But this relates so well to Chinonso s own life who often finds he has no power over circumstances as they unfold as have so many others like him throughout history All who have been chained and beaten whose lands have been plundered whose civilizations have been destroyed who have been silenced beaten raped plundered shamed and illed With all these people he d come to share a common fate They were the minorities of this world whose recourse was to join the universal orchestra in which all there is to do is cry and wail This is not an easy read There is plenty of foreshadowing by the chi to let the reader now this won t have a happy ending And the characters are only seen through the spirit s observations so there are naturally limitations to the full development of characterizations I tend to give high marks for inventive writing The book that this reminds me most of is Lincoln in the Bardo another highly inventive novel so if you loved that book as I did I can recommend this book to you Of course comparison to the story of The Odyssey comes up often in this story but in that ancient tale his true love waits for her husband s return I ve read several interviews with Chigozie Obioma about his new book and saw this uote he posted on Instagram that you might find interesting The inspiration for An Orchestra of Minorities came when I went to the Turkish Republic of Cyprus in 2007 for college At the time I was one of very few African or black people on the island I was the only one who wasn t Turkish in my class Jay a young Nigerian man who had recently been deported from Germany came a year later and his travails and eventual death inspired the character of Chinonso I received an arc from the publisher via NetGalley for my honest review I m very grateful for the opportunity Beautiful writing and interesting philosophy totally wasted on a book that doesn t think of women as people Nothing but a litany of excuses for a man s violence being let loose on a woman he supposedly loves Every terrible wrong in his life of which she was not actor or creator being brought to her doorThis is nature This is how a man is This is what a man does On on on not uestioning not pushing not offering a different vision of the world Sexual violence against the male protagonist is elided and not looked at yet we are shown and met to sympathize him pushing past a woman s nos to fuck her without a condom of him obsessively and angrily fantasizing about men touching a woman he is no longer with in tit biting detail his woman had yielded to another man Forgives is available to those who have truly wronged him but not to a woman who dares to be loved by him not wait for him eternallyI was drawn in by the philosophy by the discussion of the nature of the world Based upon Nigerian Igbo beliefs each being has a chi a guardian spirit A chi has gone through many cycles of reincarnation and is familiar with earthy challenges In the present cycle of life Chinonso Solomon Olisa is a host His chi the book s commentator tries to intercede to testify to Chukwu Creator of All that Nonso has committed a grave crime but unknowinglyNonso was a man of silence He felt total emptiness and perpetual loneliness His father died leaving him in charge of their poultry farm His pet gosling died through an act of revenge performed by catapulting a stone Raising fowl suited Nonso These domestic creatures were weak animals and he enjoyed ministering to them On the way home from market with a new flock his comrades in his truck he witnessed a young woman scaling a bridge over the Amatu River planning her demise Nonso instantly reacted by throwing two of his chickens from the bridge to show her what would happen if she jumped He talked her down after all he understood despair His chi suggested he proceed home In retrospect Nonso felt he hadn t done enough to help her A chance meetinga connectionlonely uneducated farmer meets girl of his dreamshighly educated Ndali Obialor feels truly cherishedit s love Ndali and her family live in a mansion with marble floors Ndali however has a mind of her own Chi is worried that the budding love between Nonso and Ndali will make Nonso disregard his Counsel In Order To In order to worthy of Ndali but against her wishes and protests Nonso leaves his poultry farm in Nigeria and travels to north Cyprus seeking higher education and lifestyle change in the name of loveNonso s chi s testimony to Chukwu includes a recounting of Nonso s trials and tribulations in his uest for betterment Chi explains that although as a spirit being he left his host s body in search of consultation to benefit his host he could not interfere We should allow man to execute his will and
manAn Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma left me speechless breathless filled with awe The prose in this work of magical realism was superb I slowly savored this remarkable yet harsh and devastating tale I highly recommend this bookThank you Little Brown and Company and Net Galley for the opportunity to read and review An Orchestra of Minorities Agbatta Alumalu the fathers of old say that without light a person cannot sprout shadows My host fell in lovebe manAn Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma left me speechless breathless
with this woman She came as a strange sudden light that caused shadowsthis woman She came as a strange sudden light that caused shadows spring from everything else Wow How do I even begin to review this book All words seem inadeuate It is exceptional It is beautiful And it is unlike anything I ve ever read beforeIt s challenging too I don t want to sell it to readers who won t like it It s a clever and dense literary work heavily influenced by Nigerian cosmology It takes some time to settle into the unusual narration the story is narrated by Chinonso s chi a ind of guardian spirit but once I did I could not put it down She poked her hand into the dark and secret places of his life and touched everything in it And in time she became the thing his soul had been yearning after for years with tears in its eyes The strength of this novel I feel is that it is fundamentally an old and universal tale A tale of a poor m Now shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize having been re. A contemporary twist on the Odyssey An Orchestra of Minorities is narrated by the chi or spirit of a young poultry farmer named Chinonso His life is set off course when he sees a woman who is about to jump off a bridge Horrified by her recklessness he hurls two