by Julius Bokoru
It was difficult coming up with this compilation. In the process of making this list I found out that Nigerian fiction, for the most part, has been emotionally neutral. While Nigerian novelists may have succeeded in portraying characters with emotional depths, they have failed in getting to the emotional core of the reader. Perhaps it’s personal taste, but I believe every work of fiction should either lead the reader to an ocean of tears, anger, pain, nostalgia, hate or laughter, happiness, relief, joy etc. In fact a novel should either make you cry or make you laugh or even do both, anything short of that, to me, is bland literature. The writer’s message is supposed to fly into the reader’s mind with the wings of emotion. Any writer whose work keeps the readers heart at its normal pace should be jailed. Nigerian novels seriously lack emotional depth, and while beautifully sad stories are told, the tragedy of the characters often remain with the characters, and the reader will have sex and eat suya immediately after reading a supposedly tragic book. Nigerian novels are beautiful and tragic, but not necessarily heart-breaking. The works of art that are most endearing to me are the heart-wrenchers, the tearjerkers, the works that will keep you in the same mood as someone who has just seen Paramount’s Titanic. Here are the closest to that I could get, sadly.
PURPLE HIBISCUS – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This is the work that shot Ms Adichie into stardom. Kambili’s voice, when she finds it, is a sharp contrast to an ogre of a father, who masks his cruelty as discipline.
THE LAST DUTY – Isidore Okpewho
War stories are usually heartbreaking. In the Nigerian civil war a soldier learns that his life is not all war can steal from him, but in fact his love and wife too.
HALF OF A YELLOW SUN – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
That point when Adichie described the Biafran starving children should get to anyone who shouldn’t be quarantined away from humans forever.
DIZZY ANGEL – Grace Osifor
Stop looking at me as if you weren’t expecting this work here. A story of a beautiful, intelligent girl that keeps coming and going is indeed a natural for such a list.
THINGS FALL APART- Chinua Achebe
That part when Ikemefuna was killed.
JOYS OF MOTHERHOOD – Buchi Emechata
Come on, do I need to explain myself here?
BURMA BOY – Biyi Bandele
It started indifferently, then it became a comedy, then Bandele makes us weep. War is terrible. Guntu, a teenage World War II soldier would be made never to trust things as innocent as trees. And the main character, Banana would suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after the most heartbreaking war in modern history.
Julius Bokoru is a memoirist, poet and essayist. His memoir THE ANGEL THAT WAS ALWAYS THERE is set to be published by The Nigerian Writers Series.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author.