I do not have any grand reason for tirelessly canvassing for Jowhor Ile’s AND AFTER MANY DAYS. In fact, I am yet to read the prize-winning debut novel. Sometimes, I have discovered, maybe some things should not be bothered by the overrated burden of ‘reason’, whether logical or irrational.
Last year, I was all out for TRAM 83. Again, no reason whatsoever, other than its weirdly unconventional title, its cover design, and the ‘sweet’ name of the author (Fiston Mwanza Mujila)—that became music to my ears.
There are many others like me who, at times, buy books for their titles, cover designs and blurbs, especially if the author is unknown and somewhat obscure. Someone—a writer I know—once said that people who bought books for these vague reasons are shallow. I smiled, wondering how intellectually deep the speaker must be to have uttered such curious remarks, without a crease of remorse around his face. I’m sure he forgot that there are about 8 billion people in the world. Obviously, he is one of those who tow the jesus path, believing that theirs is the only true way to literary correctness and salvation.
Pardon my digression. I am a compulsive ‘beat-around-the-bush’ kind of guy.
This is not a review of Jowhor’s book. I do not think I possess enough awareness about the book to inform an exhaustive dissection of a book that, as from around 9:30 pm on the 20th of May, became 15,000 pounds expensive. Translate that to naira… what!!! Huge something.
This piece, if that is the right term for it, is generously an indirect congratulatory message to a writer I have admired for a couple of months now.
First, I love the book for its title. Even if I didn’t like Jowhor, I’d buy a book with the title and after many days. The phrase is a seductive one; one that leads you to the altar of intellectual ecstasies and consequent literary climaxes. So, yeah, I’d buy that book. Again and again.
I knew Jowhor when his book became one of the festival books at the 2016 edition of the mouth-watering AKE ARTS & BOOKS FESTIVAL. Whoever wins an AKE FESTIVAL book slot without having produced a brilliant book? Please tell me one. The Lola Shoneyin that I worked with for two years is an unrelenting perfectionist. She ogles only the best ‘babies’ from the maternity ward of African literature. Jowhor’s book was the only one that interested me. No reason then, but I knew that there was something about that book, and much more about the mind that birthed such brilliance. His making the ETISALAT shortlist proved me right. And I told a couple of friends that Jowhor’s book would clinch the prize. Some believed me, some saw my prophecy as mere rants. But on Saturday, after the announcement of the winning book—a moment that seemed like a prototype of what judgment day—if it does exist—would be like. I reckoned that a prophet is never valued in his land.
Franklyne Ikediasor, a friend and boisterous critic, had a recent interview with Jowhor Ile, and for me, I didn’t see just an interview. I saw a chat with a writer who was set for winning Africa’s most prestigious literary prize.
Seeing Jowhor at the event on Saturday, I liked him even more. I mean, who wouldn’t like a guy that shares striking resemblance with Kanye West? I would. Jowhor, not minding his larger-than-life visibility, had this coolness about him. And that Kanye West looks!!! Sporting a starched white shirt, black pants and shiny leather shoes, he sure looked like a winner. And I smiled. My winner had come.
Maybe she wasn’t even aware of it, or maybe it was a brilliant attempt to conceal the winner from us while also giving us a hint all at once, Titilope Sonuga’s poetry performance ended with the title of Jowhor’s book. I told my friend that ETISALAT had just revealed the winning book. He didn’t think much of it, but he believed my postulations.
On declaring the winner, I stood with Efe Paul as we were giddy with joy when Jowhor’s book was mentioned. I didn’t know that Jowhor’s book was ‘our book’. I thought it was just ‘my book’.
Even if I was not lucky enough to have got the winning book I lustfully craved, I still appreciate getting Jacqui’s book (THE SEED THIEF). The three books on the shortlist are a writer’s dream.
Long story short, maybe prizes are subjective, maybe they depend on the faultless or mediocre stances of the panel of judges, maybe there should be genuine reasons for liking a book, maybe not; one thing is clear, Jowhor Ile would go home a happy, 15 thousand Pounds richer man than he was when he alighted at the depressing Muritala Muhammed International Airport. And I’m glad about that.
Obviously, I won’t be getting a dime out of the cash, maybe he doesn’t even know I exist, and maybe he won’t even see this. But I feel a sensation of fulfillment and satisfaction.
I would have harbored the pain of missing the award ceremony for the rest of my mortal existence, especially since ‘my book’ won the prize. Maybe if the meek Safurat Balogun—my literary egbon’s jewel of inestimable value—had not taken pity on a broke writer, and furnished him with an invite, I would be in my room, breathless from anger and bitterness, and banking on that one Twitter feed to expose the winner.
And after many words, thank you Jowhor Ile for making the whole—running after buses, trying to escape the splash of dirty water in pot-holes ridden roads, all in the hope of getting to the cozy interiors of Federal Palace Hotel—stress worth it. Thank you Safurat Balogun for making all these happen. Thank you, Efe Paul for sharing smiles with me. Thank you, Dami Ajayi for never being a ‘popular writer’ whenever we are together.
Most importantly, Thank you Jowhor Ile for birthing AND AFTER MANY DAYS in your forge of creative incubation.