Title: A Silent Song and Other Stories (Part two)
Editor: Selected and Edited by Godwin Siundu
Published by: Spotlight Publishers E.A Limited
Publication Year: 2020
Reviewer: Bonface Otieno
Recently, I reviewed the first five stories in the Anthology of A Silent Song and Other Stories.
This second section of the review focuses on the following stories: “The Sins of the Fathers”, “The Truly Married Woman”, “Talking Money”, “Ghosts”, “God Sees But Wait”, “The Neighborhood Watch”, “December”, “Boyi”, and “Cheque Mate”, which make up the other section of the book.
This review will also appreciate societal concerns and literary styles employed in the text.
The Sins of the Fathers
To begin with, set in rural Zimbabwe during the post-colonial period is the story “The Sins of the Fathers” by Charles Mugoshi. Full of vengeance, Rondo’s thirst for revenge against his father, Rwafa, who allegedly killed his two daughters and father-in-law, opens the story and is unquenchable.
Rwafa, an ex-minister but still influential in the political system of the republic of zimbabwe, is a dirty, lethal tyrant who bends to no intimidation from his rivals.
Rondo’s wife is Selina, daughter of Basil Mzamane, a politician and businessman and Rwafa’s political enemy.
Rondo marrying Selina has caused a rift and bad blood between him and his father; consequently, Rondo’s two daughters (Yuna and Rhoda), together with their grandfather Basil are involved in an accident while driving home from a birthday party.
Rondo realizes in revelation from the many stories they shared with his friend and colleague Gaston, who rhetorically alludes, ” Have you ever wondered about the Second Street accidents?” His eyes open, convinced his father had a hand in his daughter’s death.
In a flashback, on their way to the party, the trio Rondo, Rwafa and Basil meet a group of Chimurenga youths chanting political songs, they meet a white woman whose car has broken down, and they charge to attack.
However, Basil intervenes. Racial segregation is evident. Rwafa disappears suddenly.
During his speech at the party, he condemns and lectures Rondo for marrying his enemy.
The speech leaves people shocked and perplexed. However, they still want to shake his hands and take photos with him, for such pictures may open ways in the future.
Rondo decides to send his kids home together with their grandfather, who later is discovered dead in a fatal crash.
Full of vengeance, Rondo comes with a gun as they plot to kill Rwafa. Rwafa directs them out of the room before a soft muffled plop is heard from Rwafa’s room.
Mugoshi assesses concerns and is in an identity crisis. Rondo suffers from low self-esteem for how his father treats him. Rwafa loathes and frustrates his son. Rwafa disapproves of his son’s wedding.
He throws his guitar into the fire at a young age, and Rondo’s father writes him off even though he feels great and admires Rwafa.
Secondly, the issue of vengeance is inevitable in the story. Rondo wants to revenge a giant, his father, Rwafa, in an attempt to revenge his enemy, causes an accident that kills those who he considers traitors, Basil and his granddaughters.
There is the theme of political Bigotry, machinations, racism and colonial hatred, parental resentment, love and friendship, negative ethnicity, death, marriage and family, among other themes.
The Truly Married Woman
On the other hand, the story “The Truly Married Woman” by Abioseh Nicol -Sierra Leone points out the difference between living together and being validly married, factors that hinder people from successful matrimony, conflicts arising from parents, religious hypocrisy, change with regards to marriage, modern and traditional aspects of marriage.
In the story, contemporary and traditional aspects of marriage are depicted as the story emphasizes proper marriage as opposed to cohabitation.
Ajayi and Ayo live together even though Ayo has always yawned for marriage vows.
Ayo, in a spirited fight, tries to coerce Ajayi into marrying her properly, while Ajayi holds a contrary opinion that such ceremonies are expensive and unnecessary.
She then cools down her fight, resigned accepting that it will never happen.
Times passes-by as the duo lives amicably, and Ayo performs her wide duties faithfully.
They live happily, though, amidst distant family feuds. One such conflict arises when Ajayi beats Oju, their son.
Ayo had been attending women’s meetings where they learned modern ideas, which led to her transformation. Ajayi admires her new traits.
In the office, Ajayi is visited by missionaries from the world Gospel Crusading Alliance.
He had had contact with them previously, hoping to get free Bibles, religious pictures and magazines. The missionaries are set to enroll him as one of them before the chief clerk defends him.
He invites them, together with the chief clerk, to his home. Ayo learns of her intended guests and re-organizes the house as a responsible wife and host.
She even borrows a marriage ring from a neighbor. Soon Ajayi declares his intention to properly marry his “wife”.
Though surprised, Ayo is happy that, finally, she will be married. She prepares a grey dress, her wedding attire, symbolically to denote her impurity since she is already a mother of three.
This is contrary to Ajayi’s wish, who yearned to see her in the traditional white gown. Ayo undergoes a noticeable transformation after their wedding and does not perform her wifely duties as before.
She argues in a declaration that she is now a genuinely married woman who needs a little more respect from her husband.
Major themes include contemporary Cohabiting as opposed to Marriage, Conflict due to parenting styles, hypocrisy, religion, and tradition.
Meanwhile, in the renowned Kenyan storyteller Stanley Gazemba’s “Talking Money,” the eighth story of the anthology presents a series of contemporary concerns.
This is the story of Mukidanyi, a furious man and a cattle trader. He is ignorant and arrogant towards his elder brothers and their warnings against selling his land.
The story is set in a vast rural expanse of Kakamega, Ngoseywe, and Agoya; Mukidanyi’s brothers visit their brother to persuade him to slide the thought of selling his piece of land.
He becomes angry and warns them to leave him and his life alone.
He furiously drives them out of his home. Later, his wife tries to get him out. However, her attempts only attract whips and a beating.
Obsessed with money, he awaits his clients with great enthusiasm; he receives them warmly and shows them the fertile land, and offers any assistance needed for a quick negotiation and transfer of the piece of land.
They negotiate without tussling and the client accepts his first offer without haggling.
This is when I would say, “when the deal is too good, think twice” Mukidanyi takes a huge amount of money and signs using his thumbprint since he had absconded school.
Mukidanyi is so excited and anxious about his large sums of money that he can’t sleep. He is then attacked by strange voices at night, which his wife tells him are evil spirits.
He is nearly insane, as his wife makes fun of him. Once overwhelmed by anxiety and fear of demons, he returns all the money to the Galos and flees back to his house.
The theme of ethnocentric beliefs in spirits is widely explored, this is a concept of social superstition in culture linked to the belief in good and bad luck. Mukidanyi is just a victim of bad luck.
He is faced with spiritual punishment for rebelliousness.
Money is an aspect n life that has driven so many into the dungeon. Mukidangi is obsessed with money and is later faced with the outrageous power of guilt for his bad decisions.
His love for money is his source of tribulation and lack of peace.
Nevertheless, A Silent Song and Other Stories is adorned with stories of all geographical donations.
Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi, an established Nigerian writer, presents the short story “Ghosts”.
As suggested by the title, this story tells of how people face and deal with past ghosts: the story revolves around major issues like corruption, war and the effects of war, loss of loved ones, loss of properties, counterfeit drugs, superstitions and dealing with ghosts.
Professor James Nwoye currently lives in a corrupt part of Nigeria where the medical field provides people with counterfeit drugs.
The story opens as the old professor of Mathematics is seen walking the grounds of the University bursar. He is following up on his pension, which he does not get.
All the other many retirees he meets are also desperate and frustrated.
They all point fingers at the corruption perpetrated by the education minister or the university’s vice chancellor for the failure to get their benefits.
At the university, he encounters his surviving former driver, who enquires about Nkiru, Prof. James’ daughter who lives in Nakuru. He also meets people suffering from hunger, evident in their appearance.
He buys them bananas but soon ironically observes that they need a moisturizer to soften their skin instead. From the group, he meets Ikena Okoro, a man thought to be long dead.
Okoro was his colleague and activist presumed to have died in a Biafran civil war on July 6, 1967. He is shocked to see him, and he’s tempted to throw sand at Okoro, a practice people used to do to ghosts.
Being an educated professor, he resisted the urge. The encounter between him and his friend drives Prof. James down the memory line.
He rekindles their days at the university, where Ikenna rebelled when asked to put on a tie. Further, he recalls how Ikenna acted as an activist to improve conditions for the non-academic staff.
After the war and the bombing of Orlu, Ikenna escaped on a red cross plane while on his side, Prof. James went to America with his wife Ebere.
He came back in 1970, only to find their homestead destroyed. He did not have anything to claim. Prof James, an educated man, does not believe in ghosts.
Just like his friend Ikenna, he did not believe until his wife Ebere visited her three weeks after her burial.
The two rekindle the perpetrated injustices and corruption in the healthcare system, university institutions and in general society.
Prof. James perceives a wicked society made of wicked people, leaders, and tough life. He recalls how his wife died allegedly courtesy of counterfeit drugs. Prof. James brushes off the topic due to its arousal of bitter memories.
He invites Ikenna back to his home but turns it down. Later, he watches TV at home and remembers a man importing fake drugs justifying his actions in an interview.
He is angry at the thought but awaits his daughter’s message about his grandson. If she does not call, he will go to bed and await his wife’s ghost to visit.
God sees but waits
Another story is Leo Tokstoys’s “God Sees But Wait”. The Russian writer, through religion and faith-based insinuations, narrates the cheerful, hardworking and honest former drunkard Ivan Dmitritch Aksionov.
This is a parabolic story of a young merchant with two shops in Vladimir in Russia. He bids his family bye and sets out to a trade fair in Nizhny against his wife’s premonition through a dream.
He retreats to an inn for a night, where he meets another merchant. In the morning, as he continues his journey, he is accosted by police officers, accusing him of murder after a rogue thug kills his merchant friend, plants the murder weapon in his bag and flees.
He is arrested, charged and sent to Siberia for 26 years imprisonment. People of Vladimir testify that after Aksionov stopped drinking, he is a good man.
However, he is whipped and taken to mines.
Coincidentally, the rogue murderer Makar Semyonich is brought to prison for a minor offense.
Aksionov is disturbed by Makar’s presence. He commits another crime in prison, trying to escape. Aksionov finds him but does not report him. Makar confesses and begs for forgiveness.
As Makar sobs, Aksionov weeps and has to leave the prison. Sadly, when the order for his release comes, Aksionov is already dead. Leo Tolstoy paints the societal issues of mistaken identity and wrongful conviction and imprisonment.
The Neighbourhood Watch
This Remy Ngarnije’s anecdote that drills to surface contemporary issues like street life characterized by major concerns such as crime, violence, the secret struggles of the
less fortunate and suffering, harsh living conditions, inequalities or social class differences, the rich versus the poor, desperation, poverty, and waste management.
At the story’s onset, one morning, Elius wakes up his crew, a street group made of Elius, Lazarus, Silas, Omagano and Martin, to commence the day’s activity.
They live in harsh conditions in the streets, their “home” below a bridge characterized by a lack of food, clothing, personal effects and comfort.
Routinely, the group sets out early to the CBD where, through division of labor, a portion of the crew— Elias, Omagano and Lazarus— the food crew— will storm in search of food.
Silas and Martin— valuable’s crew— will also go looking for other essentials. They go separately and later reunite, presenting all they collected from the bins.
Elias orders them to rest as they will be heading to Auasblick that night. This is one of the lovely suburbs as the bins there provide a bounty harvest as people there regularly throw things away.
While Olympia and Suiderhof are crowded and poverty-infiltrated, Auasblick is rich and less populated.
They compare the two neighborhoods.
In a flashback, the past life of Elias and Lazarus is reawakened. Earlier, the duo was not choosy regarding where or which dustbins to collect the meals and essentials.
They frequented poor neighborhoods like Katura, Hakahana, Goreabgab, Wanaheda and Okuyangava until they found a baby in the dustbin.
This prompted them to prepare a timetable and stop collecting from poor people’s places.
On the other hand, they stopped visiting Komasdal, which they had frequented on Wednesdays before their former crew member Amos was killed.
They were captured by the police while escaping the scene as anyone else, badly beaten and injured in an interrogation before they were set free.
They spend Friday and Saturday at their headquarters, fearing police patrols.
They also chat about unemployment and dead optimism about forthcoming jobs. They believe today is the day to live and no other day.
Sundays, they visit richer neighborhoods, including Eros, where the generous Bezyidenhout lives. This man gives them gifts such as canned food, books and old clothes.
This is their story, their life but their only fear is, “What if Mrs Bezuidenhout will no longer be around to give them gifts yet that has been a great source of livelihood as they try to survive street life?”
This is a story about a girl named December, unconventionally by her father, Silas Shikongo. The story is set in a town in Namibia. December has a younger brother named September. According to their grandfather, Ezekiel, there are traces of idiocy in September, his grandson, for he takes after his youngest brother, Josef.
December nurses September when he is young, but there is a mishap in which she injures the boy accidentally with a hoe, and the boy bleeds.
The old man then forbids her to eat chicken, saying that is how things are. September suspects that his grandfather is hiding something because he cannot explain the reason clearly.
However, the two siblings are academic geniuses. Suddenly, just before joining a Teachers’ Training College, December develops a psychiatric condition and her grandfather, Ezekiel, insists that she is bewitched and there are dark forces behind it.
He takes her to the hospital and dumps her there. September, who now studies in the UK, visits his sister at the hospital, but the nurse intercepts him for being late. However, Tshuuveni, a supervisor and a familiar face, appears and begins talking with him.
This light chat calms the nurse, and the guards are sent away to allow him time.
The nurse softens when she learns that September is December’s brother who studies abroad. September finds his sister in a horrible condition, but they have a warm moment, and he hands her the gifts: a jersey, a pen and a book full of puzzles, a t-shirt, and yummy chips from KFC.
Meanwhile, their grandfather Ezekiel has dreamed of a pond where leopards drink and Josef is seated on the edge, eating. A search party is sent, and Josef is found at the exact place in Ezekiel’s dream.
The next day, September buries his grandfather, with his secret, next to his father in the village graveyard.
“Boyi” is a story by Gloria Mwaning’a. The story heavily alludes to Mt. Elgon as the land of war in Kenya, which began in 2005. A militia group formed to guard their land against invaders, but contrary to expectations, the militia turns up against its own people, terrorizes, torments and causes harm and suffering.
Matwa Kei leads the militia group, whose aim is to protect the people’s land when the government decides to divide the people and give some of it to strangers.
Baba, the narrator’s father, is considered a traitor by the militia for having lent the government’s surveyor a manga and makonge ropes.
From the news, the militia has begun attacking the government.
Boyi and the narrator laugh off the idea consoling themselves that the attacks would not come to them.
However, in a turn of events, Matwa Kei visits to demand 40,000 shillings in land protection and betrayal tax.
Baba is not able to raise the said amount and later on pushes his son Boyi to the militia to help him until he is able to raise the money.
Boyi’s mother is driven to depression and hallucinations. However much she anticipates Boyi’s return, there is nothing positive to expect.
Later on, as the government launches a raid against the militia, Boyi, who has since grown to be the right-hand man of Matwa Kei, is captured alongside his boss and killed.
The story presents such themes as traditions, land conflicts and the effects of such wars, organized criminal gangs, murder or brutal killings, Displacement of people from their land and homes, lack of schooling, suffering, and betrayal.
The last story of this anthology is “Cheque Mate”.
In this story, Kelvin Bakdeosingh of the Caribbean Island of Trinidad presents contemporary issues on business and money, employment, corruption, deceit and betrayal, and loyalty cheques.
Two characters, Sukiya and Randal, take the lead in the story, harmonized by other minor characters.
Sukiya is a poor damsel from the penal Caribbean Island of Trinidad.
Her boss Randall A Credo is of the Amerindian tribe. Sukiya is in the Platinum Credit Cards queue and intends to deposit thirty million dollars, but there is a mistake that throws her into panic and dilemma.
As a recently promoted executive corporate secretary, her salary has been raised tenfold. Five thousand dollars go into her savings account each end month, yet the money does not show her actual income.
Mr. Randall makes a five million cheque payment for fear of his accounts being cleaned by offshore accounts hacker’s syndicate.
Sukiya drives her posh car back to her apartment; she is obsessed with the millions of dollars in her accounts.
She is pleased she has so far kept the road straight.
However, she is also worried about possible fraud and legal investigations on the sudden rise in her savings account.
Randal uses Sukiya to draw contracts, study conveyances, and write legal opinions. Her critical role for which she is paid handsomely
is to create loopholes in such documents, including the sale of a methanol company to the Chinese government.
Sukiya confirms the validity of the cheque and confronts Randall for an explanation.
She confirms that the large sums of money are meant for her silence about the Chinese methanol deal, in which Sukiya undervalues the shares by 50 percent.
Randal plans to blackmail Sukiya in case things go out of hand. However, Sukiya is cyberspace technology competent and can transfer their conversation with Randall as evidence.
READ PART ONE OF THIS SET BOOK: BOOK REVIEW: A Silent Song and Other Stories
This book comprises entirely thrilling short stories, addressing themes such as corruption, insecurity, leadership and governance, and peace, among many others.