Wednesday, 24 June 2015


Book: How do I talk about my Ordeal?
Author: Maxwell Perkins Kanemanyanga
Review by Paul Lothane

This work, How Do I talk about my Ordeal? follows on the heels of the author’s first book, Enemy of the State (2009). This new book reinforces the literary fecundity of the author, Maxwell Perkins Kanemanyanga.

Kanemanyanga has the penchant to produce works that are somewhat didactic, with moralistic undertones. It is no surprise that this continues in this new work, starting with the Introduction. This gratuitous, sometimes irritating approach can be seen from when Gogo spouts the following to a nurse in the very first story:

“But gogo tell me, what is wrong with our society today?” nurse Sibanda asked gogo maMoyo as they were waiting for the results.

“Uh, it’s not easy. You children of today don’t listen to your elders anymore. You say you went to school and us we know nothing. But look at me; I have seen my grandchildren, something that you are failing to do. You are dying young. Go to the cemeteries you will see what I am talking about. Born 1980, died 2000, born 1981 died 2009, born 1985 died 2010. During our time we learnt how to cook like our mothers but now you, learn to drink like your fathers. The young men are like bulls. They leave babies all over they go. The first born is in Bloemfontein, second born in Eastern Cape, the third born in Polokwane all with different mothers. How do you survive this disease? Your children grow up without guidance, because they don’t know their fathers. Every day they are introduced to a different man saying he is your father. A child needs a moral compass. That means instilling a sense of right and wrong. The moral compass for children is their parent’s behaviour. Unfortunately for you children of today, family is no longer important and that is very bad. By the time you will you realize this most of you will be dead.”

An ominous forecast. Yet despite her horrifying ordeal, Maze the young lady violated in the opening story manages to go on with life. As the aphorism points out “As they say the axe that cuts quickly forgets but the tree that was cut will never forget.”

Yet this initial story, like others, goes on and on to the point of becoming tedious. One gets the impression that perhaps this story should have been further developed into something like a novella.

Once again, fine expressions intermittently come to the fore and are lavished on us; the display of eclectic knowledge and references still predominate; eg “She remembered one of the best statements from William Shakespeare’s books and tears began to flow on her pretty face. “The liquid drops of tears that you have shed shall come again, transformed to orient pearl advantaging their loan with interest of ten times double again of happiness.” And the likes of Martin Luther King Jnr are quoted with relish too.

We have what comes close to true pathos in the story “Beautiful Ghost” as a woman is abused and humiliated by her husband. “One night she heard her husband arguing with another woman in the next room. What else could she do anymore? Was it because she was dying? But she had always been there for him. In the dawn of that same night Janet passed away in the arms of her mother whilst, her husband was sleeping in the arms of another woman. She died with a heavy painful heart.” This is heart-rending.

Yet the story is a rather disjointed one that can easily confuse, with the didactic fulminations once again overdone, and the authorial intrusions sometimes jarring. The author wants to make a point here, and certainly does so.

The story, “Baby from the plastic” might have been a success, but once again it is marred by the author’s penchant to go on and on -even including a long discourse on football, Arsene Wenger and his regime at Arsenal. It is clear the author loves football. But here in this context it comes across as gratuitous, over-stretched and even boring.

By and large, this is an impressive work by Maxwell Kanemanyanga; his commitment to his art, his principles (even if overdone to the extent of marring his artistic level), and his love for general knowledge have to be commended.

Kanemanyanga started his literary career by publishing two books of short stories. Many in the literary fraternity will now reckon that his next step should be a novel or at least a novella. In these days where when imaginative writing is thin on the ground at grassroots level, one can not but wish Mr. Kanemanyanga all the best.

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