The Booker Prizes are the most coveted of all literary prizes. Over the years, we have seen incredible authors from all over the world—the likes of Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan, Joyce Carol Oates, Ngugi was Thiongo and Chinua Achebe—make the long list, the shortlist and some of them have even gone on to win.
It was announced on the fourteenth of this month that Zimbabwean author, Petina Gappah, will be among the list of judges for the 2022 Prize. Petina Gappah is not a name I come across often, so I did some research into this author and I must say… I like what I’m seeing.
Writers can be weird. They can also be really cool. Whichever one they choose to be on any given day, we have social media to keep us in the know. But you can’t be all up on all the writers’ socials like a deadbeat. You’ve got work to do!
Hence why (is that even proper English? XD) I did the dead-beating for you. I’ve been snooping around the socials and here’s what you missed, if you haven’t been on.
My next book haul is coming soon in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Until that great day comes when I stop being such a broke bitch and actually enter a book store for something other than window shopping (*cringe*), here’s a list of books I really really want to have in my library.
I can’t remember where we stopped as of last time but today, I’m four months into fourth year of medical school. I’m about to finish my first block lectures in pharmacology and pathology, about to write my first test in both, and…. about to turn 20
*deep, heavy existential sigh*
Our Dean agreed to have the remainder of our class lectures over Zoom so, I don’t get as much outside time as I would like to these days. I hate that.
It’s forced me into solitude. I talk to myself… way more frequently than I should. I’m in my head a lot. Thinking about things. Making up alternate realities. Very lockdown-esque, you know?
Today, I had to force myself outside. I went into campus to read and have lunch.
At the refectory, I met this petite, fair skinned girl. She was seated across from me, busy on her grey MacBook, surfing the internet while answering calls with her earphones. Through my eavesdropping, I found out she’s a law student and also a script writer. She loves to watch Anime (girl has about 56 different Animes on her laptop).
She writes reviews of the Animes she watches for a really big website. I’ve forgotten the name but I promise, it’s one of the big ones. I thought it was so cool that her reviews are being published on a big platform. It’s much more than the modest thing I manage to do here on this blog.
I would’ve said hi but it’s never been my style to go beyond observing. So, I didn’t bother starting a conversation.
To other things: my writing career (which is barely existent) is in actual SHAMBLES.
So, I sent in an entry to this magazine recently. This is embarrassing but I will talk about it anyway.
It wasn’t even one of the big ones (the magazine). They do not pay. The bar is pretty low with very high acceptance rates. Almost anyone can get in. And I guess that was what made me think they would accept such a terrible entry. It was a poem actually, so… I was doomed from the start.
I got rejected. Coldly.
That particular rejection would be my fourth consecutive rejection in a very short time period. While that might not seem like a lot to certain people, I put HOURS a day (hours I could’ve been using to study my medical notes), to write and edit those entries.
So, it’s quite painful when weeks later you find that you haven’t acheived anything. You are weeks behind your peers in class. You are depressed. Exhausted. Your brain can’t even string up one coherent sentence because you don’t have the mental energy or capacity. You just make sounds to communicate. All you have to show for that effort and time are rejection letters. Rejection letters!!!!
The rejection, that particular one, as with most, forced me to reflect. Obviously, not on why I got rejected. That didn’t need figuring out: I was desperate and impatient. I found myself reflecting on something else—my upcoming twentieth birthday.
One thing I’ve been telling myself moving into this new decade of life is: I don’t want to waste. my. damn. time.
I can’t afford to waste my time. So, if it really is my dream to become a stellar author at some point in this decade, then I need to get my shit together and focus on that. Cut out all the distractions. Maybe even, cut down on the blogging. Manage to achieve just one thing. And I have to be honest with myself: I am not a poet. I have tried. I have tried . I’m just… not a poet.
I tell stories. I write amazing dialogue that will kill on the screen. I make blog posts about my life and literature. I write terrible reviews nobody wants to read half the time. That is who I am.
Like Igbo, I love poetry, but that is just not the language I express myself best in.
Anyway, school has been fairly stable since my last update. Its been a rat-race, trying to catch up with where the lecturers are. I’ve been devoting the hours to my books in preparation for my first test, even if that translates to just sitting by a desk with my textbooks open. Just recently, I spoke to my Dad about possibly writing the USMLE Step 1. He is on board with whatever decision I make so… it’s until 2022 (when I would’ve been done with pharma and path) that I’ll know for sure.
It’s really difficult to be enthusiastic about medicine or medical school in Nigeria because the sheer stress of it all. But there are some moments every now and then that get me excited. Like, Fridays when we have Microbiology practicals. On Friday, I prepared a culture of Staphylococcus Aureus spp. on Nutrient Agar. On the Friday before that, I performed a Ziehl–Neelsen stain all on my own with a sputum specimen.
I’ve also recently started picking up extracurricular interest in Regenerative medicine… but I doubt you came here to read about all that.
In all, life is uncertain now. I don’t know where I’m headed. And I have nightmares where all of these things I’m juggling just slip through my fingers and crash to the ground and I’m left there standing like an idiot.
I wish I could be like MacBook girl. Lord knows, she looked like she’s got all her shit sorted.
Rémy Ngamije is a Rwandan-born Namibian writer and photographer. He is the founder, chairperson, and artministrator of Doek, an independent organisation in Namibia supporting the literary arts. He is also co-founder and editor-in-chief of Doek! literary magazine, Namibia’s first and only literary magazine.
I’ve been a fan of his since I read his short story, The Giver of Nicknames on Lolwe last year. This year alone Remy has been shortlisted for the Afritondo short story prize, the Commonwealth short story prize (of which he is the current Regional winner for Africa) and the AKO Caine short story prize—the biggest literary prize out of Africa. Big flex!
The stories I read are The Giver of Nicknames, Granddaughter of The Octopus, Suikerbossie, Dankie Botswana (or Semper Fi), Nine Months Since Forever, ‘Sofa, So Good, Sort of (or John Muafangejo)’, Figure of Preach and Love is a Neglected Thing (or Corinthians).
Let me tell you of Remy’s writing style. It’s different. Definitely different from what you would read from other African authors.
His writing isn’t so serious. I feel like that’s a weak adjective to associate with a piece of writing but it’s true. If Remy’s writing were an outfit, they’d be denims and a white tee. If they were an ice cream flavor, they’d be vanilla.
His stories come off to me as quite simple and regular. They won’t fill you with wonder or leave you with some grand question on life. They are comfortable stories with comfortable characters. You can definitely identify with or see someone you have watched on TV in the characters Remy writes about. This isn’t a bad thing at all. In fact, I love it.
In this literary thing, you’ll come across all gradients of melancholy. Depressing stories. Stories about violence and trauma. Stories that tell you this world has gone to shit in very grand ways. And yes, this world, it has definitely gone to shit. But Remy’s stories, comfortable and loving as they are, won’t tell you that until they’ve made you laugh and smile and scream from the shock of it all. His stories leave you feeling… all kinds of things. Happiness. Sadness. Shock. Euphoria.
Prime example for me is The Giver of Nicknames. It’s a story about youth, ignorance and vice, basically on the ugly before the beautiful. A school bully for whom we have no name (ironically), yet to see himself as the bully he is (they never do), goes on about making life a nightmare for his fellow classmates and giving them hurtful nicknames. Hence, Giver of Nicknames. And like most things in secondary schools, the nicknames are contagious. Soon, everyone is saying it.
The Giver of Nicknames realizes the role he played in the ruin of some of his classmates in the course of the story. There’s a suicide and rape. Overall, it’s a sad story. However, Remy goes the completely different route in telling it. There’s this characteristic wittiness and joviality with the way Remy tells his stories and it’s no different in this one. One second, he’s making you laugh, the next second you’re concerned, the next you’re livid. I think it’s commendable the way he’s able to keep the reader spellbound and bring out such reactions.
I love the way Remy incorporates so many different languages into his stories.
It’s one of the reasons my favorite story of his is Dankie Botswana or Semper Fi, which is Latin and the English equivalent of “always faithful.” Dankie Botswana is a story within a bigger story. The bigger story is something of a scattered collection. There are three stories, Nine Months since Forever, ‘Sofa, So Good, Sort of (or John Muafangejo)’ and Love is a Neglected Thing (or Corinthians), tethered to Dankie Botswana. They are different faces of the same story, but work perfectly as individual stories themselves. It’s complicated but if you pay it your attention it’s worth the read.
The collection follows the life of a man named John Muafangejo (this is my hypothesis as it’s not explicitly written that these stories are in fact tied together or that this is the main character’s name). In Dankie Botswana, John (again, hypothesis) enjoys a cab-ride with his drunk friend Rinzlo. Rinzlo is the stereotypical sweet talker, douche bag, no-good cheating bum we all love on paper but never in person. He’s drunk as a skunk and it’s the night the unforgettable Brazil-Germany 2016 FIFA World Cup Match. They are on their way to Rinzlo’s apartment to watch the match when John, acutely aware of Rinzlo’s drunkenness, begins to question the significance of their friendship.
In Sofa, So Good, Sort of which is a collection within the “collection” (yes, Remy did that), there are six stories that weirdly all have something to do with some type of a chair: The Ottoman and His Lieutenant, Daddy’s Armchair, The Loveseat, The Stroke That Broke The Camelback (go figure), Chesterfield Sleep and John Muafangejo. The collection, as I said before, follows the life of John; the ups and downs, heartbreak, love, marriage, friendship and all. The story meets John at different points in his life and so the reader doesn’t get the full picture. Just enough to make it all make sense. And the fun is actually in making it all make sense. It’s like a giant jigsaw puzzle of stories.
Granddaughter of the octopus is Remy’s most recent publication and is the Commonwealth Regional Prize Winning story. It’s definitely one worth its merit. There are so many lines and fragments of this story that are beautiful and make you want to pause, think and meditate.
The story centres on a grandmother, the matriarch of the family, who has been married to eight men and has eight sons from those marriages. It’s narrated by the woman’s granddaughter. In the story, the granddaughter recounts all her grandmother’s marriages, giving life-lessons on love, marriage and man-woman relations. I’m always scared when a man decides to tell a woman’s story. Nine times out of ten it’s going to be inaccurate or unrealistic or just so trash. But this was good. Better than good even. I don’t think a woman could’ve written it any better.
Figures of Preach (which is so aptly titled—Remy is so good with titles!) is a flash fiction story which reads sort of like a reported speech. It’s something that you have to read to understand though. It is hilarious. Same goes for his story Suikerbossie, Afrikaans for Sugarbush, which is a term of endearment meaning Sweetie. Again, the language of it all. Suikerbossie is equally hilarious. It’s about a man cycling his way up a hill. There are so many cheesy, cliché lines in this story. You’re bound to laugh before its end.
I can’t wait to read whatever Remy puts out next. I’m sure it’s going to get me cracking. Judging by his stories, I’d say Remy is a nice guy, lady’s man, home-bug. Remy’s the kind of writer that just wants you to have a good time when you are in communion with his words. He is the type of writer I need more of on my shelf.