Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Fire On The Mountain by Mathew Takwi

Mathew Takwi. Fire On The Mountain. Bamenda: NAB VENTURES.2008

When Takwi published Fire On The Mountain, the fiery bowels of Cameroon's socio-economic and political volcano were already churning and grumbling with discontentment and resentment. By the time he was launching it in Buea, a vent had ruptured, fulfilling the prophecy of an implosion vividly sketched in his fiery poems.

Fire On The Mountain appeals to all classes and to all types of minds - the sacred and the profane. In purple patches of lyric beauty and intensity, Takwi captures a morally decadent society entangled in its own transgressions.

He manipulates bubbling imagery and cutting-edge metaphor to good effect to re-awaken the consciousness of the readers to harsh realities of environmental degradation, greed, selfishness, individualism, the death of morality (When We Were Young, pg 72), human (woman) rights abuse (Arrest pg 82) and the like.

He sweeps through satire - human parasites satirized in The Fore Runner pg 86) and pleasantly swings your mood from immorality to a world of concupiscent bliss, which sets your pulse racing and keeps your adrenaline boiling (Capped Fruits pg 78).

The book takes place at a time when evil has taken the better part of society hostage, with Cameroon a living example. Like Dr. George Nyamndi says in the Introduction, Takwi has a knack for dragging societal evils by the "ear or by the stomach or by the penis or by whatever part of its metaphorical tentacles" and ripping them apart on paper.

The poetry in Fire On The Mountain depicts an eroded morality and mentality, and singles out, for the benefit of Cameroonians, the cyclical nature of suffering through hypocrisy in (Dancers pg 28), plunder and disenfranchisement perpetrated by politicians and armed highway robbers (Beret Boys pg 21).

Takwi manipulates his characters and plots; fodder provided by disaffection against a repressive regime, to stimulate thought and possible reaction. His characters are dissipated and immoral; his villains are villainous, his stooges absolute and his hypocrites are whole time hypocrites. They are like a plague of locusts taking the country to the brink of ruin.

When you are done reading some of the poems, you will begin to wonder why Cameroonians haven't picked up the gun yet or why God is taking too long to turn a good eye upon the good old country.

Nonetheless, Takwi has his tender moments like all warriors. A "fanatic of truth and justice", he invokes Nwie-ngong-nekang (God) for inspiration and strength. Rev. Andrew Nkea, in the blurb, summarises the poet as "a political critic, a cultural conservative, a moral reformer, a social analyst…" who is not altogether too pessimistic.

Takwi, however, warns of a brewing storm and a lurking fire whose flames would soon devour the arcane society and seeds of sanity would sprout in its place.

Manna of a Life and Other Stories by Eunice Ngongkum

Eunice Ngongkum. Manna of a Life and Other Short Stories. Yaounde: Éditions CLÉ, 2007, 116 pages.

And very much like Chaucer who uses the strategy of the coincidental convention of diverse pilgrims at an inn to recreate late medieval life in all its colour, Ngongkum in Manna of a Life and Other Short Stories effects a sweep of the Cameroonian society at the twilight of the third millennium, the years of the ebbs of post-independence dystopia, crystallised in the much tambourined Renouveau.

Thus the thematic motif that ties together her compacted narratives is misery for a populace, pauperised by the unbridled obscenities of a vision-voided leadership.

Manna of a Life and Other Short Stories then are ten verbal frescoes that capture the breadth and pulse of the life of the average Cameroonian in the New Deal era, from the rustic folk eking out their existence in this hope-voided clime, to the melting pot that is the capital, Yaounde, that paradigm of the morally bankrupt country, where saints, conmen and the kleptomanic Mammonites of the Renouveau coalesce to produce a sordid world where spirited juvenile dreams end in calamity; where post-independence dystopia is engraved in the social topography of the city, where glorified Renouveau robbers of state money:

Walked the streets in broad daylight and nothing was done to them. In some instances they were hailed as best managers and given juicier positions where they could demonstrate recognised heroism … (75 - 76).

Eunice Ngongkum teaches at the Department of African Literature, University of Yaounde I.

Click here for the complete review

Precipice by Susan Nde Nkwentie

Susan Nkwentie Nde. Precipice. Langaa Publishers, 2008. 192 pages (paperback). Available from

Madam Essin stood watching the young people holding each other. She looked at the young man who was her son. How handsome he looked. When he smiled he had that elusive curve on his lips that reminded her of her husband. She had been unable to resist that curve of the lips even after eight years of marriage. When her husband smiled she had the feeling he was looking down on her in amused condescension. This used to annoy her but she could not resist the charm he exuded. Now here she was an abandoned wife with an estranged son. Her thoughts roved as she watched them, plunging into the past, the present and the future. The girl brought back the past. She wished she could obliterate that past from her life and her son's.

In Precipice, Susan Nkwentie Nde, in her first novel, has a way of weaving past intrigues and present emotions to keep all guessing about what will be. She opens up her characters for the reader to enter and inhabit their minds and bodies in a compelling story of love and estrangement, happy accidents, quest and survival.