Poetry is often described as the language of the soul. And as many of us believe, Poetry can transcend into different time periods, flow effortlessly between past, present and future- not necessarily in that order.
While Jowhor Ile’s work is not one of poetry, it certainly contains that fluidity between different time periods, while revealing bigger issues. The book starts off by hinting some suspense, as Paul disappears, however that notion is quickly dropped.
After Many Days slows its pace and loses its plot, as it transcends through the binds of time, as it transforms into a glimpse of the world from Paul’s brother, Ajie’s perspective. Many readers will lose interest due to this; however, those who continue to read, will be rewarded with Ile’s stylistic approaches to addressing conflicting stories. He is a talented writer, who gives small bursts of joy and pleasure to his readers through the innocence of Ajie. Ile binds the entire novel together by the presence of Paul, despite his physical disappearance.
Ajie, being the last person to see Paul, holds a guilt and tries to understand it throughout the majority of the book, only to reveal a “light bulb” at the end. Through Ajie’s travels down memory lane, we get a taste of the political turmoil taking place in Nigeria, and an understanding of a family’s portrait. We see sibling rivalry, envy and concern, while witnessing the corruption and division in political lines.
One does not need to be physically present, to impact the lives of those who were once in his life- in this case Ajie. Ajie recalls when Paul first started reading newspapers, what he wore, how he spoke, and how he acted as a mediator between his siblings. We, as readers, also get to understand his family dynamic- he is not seeing the level of pain, one would expect to see from a parent whose child has disappeared. Instead, we are seeing parents who continue to live their lives for the sake of their two children left behind. Myself included, expected, Ma to have a nervous breakdown- but it is their aunt who dramatizes the disappearance to the extreme a mother “should”. The aunt serves as a voice to the pain the mother is feeling but not expressing. This speaks volumes- as no one can really dictate how one ought to act in such circumstances, yet we all try.
If you are a fan of fast paced novels with clear plots, this book is not for you. However, if the development of the plot, the tendency of standing still in time doesn’t bother you and you have poetic taste- please pick up this book at your Indie Bookstore. It is a work that offers empathy to those who have lost someone dear, for people who know about the political turmoil, and people who are stuck in time in their minds. It is easy for outsiders to draw blame on families left behind, but we need the survivors to know that it is not their fault, they do not have a reason to be guilty for not taking an action they weren’t aware they could take.
I hope to hear more from Jowhor Ile in the future.