Potpourri of personal, societal life experiences
Book: It Happened That Night & Other Stories
Author: Lekan Malik
Publisher: Technoprint Publications, Lagos
Reviewer: Adjekpagbon Blessed Mudiaga
“It Happened That Night & Other Stories” is Lekan Malik’s debut prose work into the highly competitive field of literary creativity and global book market.
The twelve tales in the book includes: “It Happened That Night,” “It Was The Knife That Did It,” “Face To Face With Death,” “A Stranger’s Head,” “The Robbing Masquerade,” “Hand Of Frustration,” “When It Wasn’t Easy…,” “I Wish I Could Help Him,” “Grave Of Voices,” “The Awaiting Priest,” etc.
Multidimensional human experiences ranging from personal health challenges, murder, religious and abstract imagination about death, robbery, poverty, ethnic discrimination, mystical voices, etc are the rice and stew of the stories.
Through the introduction page, the author informs that the cover story; ‘It Happened That Night,’ “is a personal and unforgettable experience of the writer with some creativity…” This implies that the first story in the book is a ‘unitruefiction’ (a combination of fiction and nonfiction).
It borders on the psychological hallucinations the author went through while sick at a particular time. He describes certain experiences he had like many folks do when they are seriously ill- some hear imaginary voices or ringing tones.
A contemporary and quite disturbing issue that has become commonplace in Nigeria these days is the killing of wives by their husbands and vice versa, coupled with ethnic discrimination in marital relationships that has destroyed many marriages over the years. These are the musings of “It Was The Knife That Did It,” where an alcoholic husband known as Obinna kills his wife, Sade, as a result of inter-tribal discrimination by both his family members of Igbo origin and his wife’s Yoruba family members who collectively contributes to the rancor that snowballs into hate between the couple, and the wife eventual death.
“Face To Face With Death,” happens to be the most hilarious and entertaining story in the entire collection based on the reviewer’s assessment. Apart from being an interesting satirical reminder of certain common religious activities noticeable among Christians and Islamic so-called representatives of God on earth, it shows how some people try to run away from death after boasting that they are ready to die. Despite claiming to be searching for death, which makes him to visit a pastor and an Islamic cleric to ask them where he could see death face to face, Alabi, a young man later sees death in human forms that came to rob him of his possessions, but he refuses to die.
Another noteworthy story is “When It Wasn’t Easy…” It highlights how some relatives deceive their nieces from the village in the guise to further their education in the city, only to introduce them into prostitution for personal benefits.
Experiences bordering on life after death and some traditional values, beliefs and practices among the Igbo and other Africans are the meat and potatoes of “Grave of Voices.” Here, the
author awakens the reader’s memory to similar gothic occurrences such as the types in Perpetual Obidiegwu’s novel titled “Priceless Jewel,” and William Shakespeare’s drama titled “Hamlet.”
Disobedience of some traditional/cultural practices by some Africans who claim to be Jewish than the Jews, and Arabic than the Arabs, seems to be the author’s satirical concentration in “Grave of Voices,” where Kolade, a Yoruba man- the central character of the story, refuses to obey the traditional culture of his Igbo in-laws who wants him to release the dead body of his wife, Amarachi to them for burial in their home town.
He buries his late wife in his compound. This leads to her nocturnal protests to the hearing of Yakubu the gateman. He informs Kolade about the strange voices he hears from late Mrs. Kolade Amarachi’s grave at night. But the stubborn widower says Yakubu maybe either drunk or dreaming. Kolade later hears the voice at night saying “Take me home” as Yakubu had earlier told him he has been hearing at night.
The story reminds the reviewer about a similar life experience related by a friend who lives in Ikorodu area of Lagos, where one night he saw the spirit of a young lady rising from the sitting-room of an apartment he rented some year ago. The spirit went to the locked entrance door, hissed, opened it and went out at exactly midnight. This made the reviewer’s friend to approach the landlord of the house to inquire whether someone was buried in the sitting-room of the apartment. The landlord confirmed that he buried his matured late daughter there two years before the occupant parked in. Hence, the claim that when people are buried it is the end of their life is a
figment of ignorance. Spirits rise from graves to live at night between 12 – 4am before Aurora’s footsteps.
The only story in the anthology that has a sprinkle of descriptive stream is “A Stranger’s Head.” Unexpected springing of surprises and twists in the plots of the entire stories are the author’s commendable hallmark of narrative style.
However, deficiencies noticed in the book include typos, syntactic errors, and mechanical noise in some pages. Some Yoruba words used in some of the stories ought to have also been translated in English for non-Yoruba readers.
Lekan Malik studied English and Literature at the Lagos State University. He is also a budding poet whose works have been published in some anthologies.