Who Fears Death? Not Nnedi Okorafor’s heroine!

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Nnedi Okorafor has stolen an irreducible march in the Best Title Ever contest. Who can beat “Who Fears Death” as a title? But more than that, much more, is that Okorafor has shown the way to write fantasy/dystopia that is more than ever a reminder that Truth is way, way stranger than Fiction. If the dystopic Africa of Who Fears Death seems to anyone to be just an imagined, overheated, disjointed, violent and unbalanced society (haha count those modifiers), try reading Emily Wax’s Washington Post article about Sudan and the weaponization of rape. From 2004 on, when we were sitting in our homes and decrying world apathy toward the Sudanese genocide, thousands and thousands of women suffered fates in Sudan equal to if not worse than EVERY scenario of rape and torture that Okorafor evokes in Who Fears Death — I would say creates but then, again, truth is stranger than fiction — in her unforgettable novel Who Fears Death. Onyesonwu, the eponymous protagonist, doesn’t fear death because who fears death after what life shows to be possible in the everyday?

Okorafor was impelled to write this novel after she read that article, but here’s not a case of art imitating life either. The overall effect of the writing transcends its supposed origin story because Okorafor foregrounds the realization that the fictional recounting of horrific gender violence on the scale of atrocities that are globally common enough to seem banal is terrifying at least to a large extent because representation demonstrates the impossibility of itself. Language fails before the scale of the violence and the atrocity so that the witness must shapeshift in order to make sense of a reality that is truly protean in its torments and terrors. The novel was long and at times too richly worked to not become confusing, but that was my failure as a reader. I expected linearity and accessibility in a world that is a minefield of mortal danger for women.

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The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne

Book Review


While admittedly — even undeniably — wicked clever and inventive, Monica Byrne’s dystopic novel lacks even a single shelf for a reader to store their emotions. While I understand that this is the condition and peculiarity of postmodernity, the constant shifts in perspective and the fungibility of characters for one another produce mostly a sense of pastiche and not critique (I’m assuming critique was part of authorial intention, if one might for a second be allowed to revive that moribund concept). With the dense semiotic of the elements of the novel being almost impossible to untangle, ultimately making it impossible to identify with anyone or anything, The Girl in the Road obviously a satisfying artifact of postmodernity but affectively draining and cognitively wearying for the reader. The world that Byrne has created is intensely brittle, manipulated, multidimensional and polymorphous, but less focus on the possibilities of pastiche and paranormality and a little more on the meaning and yield even of shifting positions and subjectivities in a compressed time-space would have made the novel more readable and enjoyable.



The Bad News

The Very Bad News….

That the land of my birth is now a killing field where death’s ambassadors clad in colors of light scavenge every night for the remains of democracy, law and order, truth and justice,

because of the BJP, the Modi dictatorship, the RSS, and Hindutva zombies.

That all over this beautiful suffering world, the miasma of evil is spreading in the form of leadership that seems to be from an empire of evil. That Palpatine in The Rise of Skywalker has NOTHING, absolutely nothing, on what Modi, Trump and his ilk are doing to our beautiful world and its people.

That India has a new law that “amends” citizenship unconstitutionally to exclude, target and eliminate Muslims. That America builds a wall against the hands and muscles that have built it, always, without exception, for five hundred years now.

No, it wasn’t the Pilgrim Fathers, guess again.

That women are burned and impaled in India for presuming the right to exist.

This is all very bad news.

I end with an anonymous poet’s marvelous song against injustice that you should hear even if you don’t understand Hindi/Urdu. Friends, give him your ears….