Chigozie Obioma – The Fishermen: A Novel [Feature Review]

October 23, 2015

 

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Chigozie Obioma – The Fisherman: A Novel

 

The Fishermen is written in a style that keeps the reader guessing.  The narrator, Benjamin, writes in the present day looking back at the events of the past and he doesn’t hesitate to add the details and commentary that are only gained with the benefit of time and distance from an event.  Throughout the arc of the book the reader is constantly introduced to new ideas and concepts so that there is a kind of pause in the forward movement of the story while new information is disseminated and the reader is forced to rethink previous assumptions.

Alongside the story of this family is the story of Nigeria itself.  There is a story of the brothers meeting MKO Abiola, a popular businessman turned politician who is believed to have won a 1993 Presidential election but had his victory taken from him and eventually died in military prison.  I won’t lie, I had to look up the details of this part of Nigerian history when I was reading the book but I notice how much the lost promise of Ikenna and the Agwu family parallels the lost promise of Nigeria.

The Fishermen was shortlisted for The Man Booker Prize this year, it won the first FT/Oppenheimer Emerging Voices Award for Fiction and has received mounds of other well-deserved praise.  I loved it for its ability to transport and inform.  More than that, I love it for what Chigozie Obioma seems to want it to be, a kind of eye opener.  He says the story of Abulu, the madman, is one of the main reasons he wrote the book.  In an interview Obioma says, “all over West Africa, derelicts like Abulu are allowed to roam the streets, feeding like stray dogs. Many get run over like animals and die like roadkill. Abulu’s story, if it succeeds, will provide me with a platform to start up a public campaign to have these people taken off the streets and housed in places where they can be cared for.” (http://amandacurtin.com/2015/02/23/2-2-and-2-chigozie-obioma-talks-about-the-fishermen) This is a vision of fiction that I love, one that desires to entertain but also be a voice for change.  Chigozie Obioma is currently working on a second novel, The Falconer.  Count me among the many eagerly awaiting the next offering from this talented writer.