[Originally a Facebook post]
Talking about Prof. Kole Omotosho, who’s read his book “Memories of Our Recent Boom”? Google informs me it was published by Longmans in 1982. I suspect under the Drumbeats imprint. Not a reasonable suspicion, but I read it at the same time with Ben Okri’s “The Landscapes Within”, also Drumbeats. Something similar about the books and the paper used, I remember, was exactly the same shade of off-white. I read it early in the 90’s, amongst my father’s book stash from his Kano days. Whatever happened to these two books?
These books peopled the world of my earliest imaginations; Okri’s more than Omotosho’s but as memorable as Okri’s doomed painter Omovo was was equally Seven Alaka from “Memories”. And, still with me almost twenty years after reading is a gag in the early pages where (in hindsight now the possibly dyslexic Seven) in a few exercises corrects the error of “Made in England” on a bicycle handlebar to “Mad in England”–so sure was he that “made” was not a word. I smile even as I type this today. This is the nature of a book, you see? The fictions I have read form the fiction of my life and influence in degrees the fictions I craft.
Okri’s book was a powerful one, I carried it about for possibly three years and even as at secondary school, the spine having given way and all preservation failed, pages found scattered about my room and the house of my childhood could stop whatever I was doing–to read again, to re-lish. To reenter the story of Omovo, the first of my alter egos from a time I did not even know what the word meant. And the tragic Ifeyinwa. And his ruined father, and Blackky and Tagbo the neighbour whose dalliance with Blackky (Omovo’s father’s wife) raised the tragedy of an urban slum to an art. This is the Okri i have in mind, firstly. Omovo, the painter, and an older painter who slaps Omovo when he attempts to lose his mind. A memorable phrase about pain stringing the skin “like pitiful cords”–it was used twice. And there was a yabis about someone’s girlfriend looking “as sexless as a plate of eba.”
Omotosho’s Seven, also a sort of spirit child a la Okri’s Azaro, fascinated me for all his strangeness. And his women. I can’t remember a lot about the book, but I known there was an older brother, a ditched fiancée, the UK, the petro-boom (the cover was filmstrips of a man with a green Mercedes 220), infertility and a disputed child. The novel ends with a car accident, the fate of Seven and the fiancée intertwined lastly in metal as in life. . .
Thinking back now, I don’t know if these two novels were great novels. I hardly hear them mentioned today. Possibly they are considered minor works? In Omotosho’s case, perhaps his academic work overshadowed his fiction? But it is these fictions that early on, amongst others, held my hand and said–“Ugbede, let us show you a world of dazzling thought.”
This is a ramble, I know. But it is a ramble to books, about books, to two forgotten books that I remember now. It is a ramble but perhaps also is a salut–to creativity?