RSS Feed (xml)

Powered By

Skin Design:
Free Blogger Skins

Powered by Blogger

Friday, November 21, 2008

A parable of the lost love

Book: Jesse’s Jewel.
Author: Nick Twinamatsiko.
Reviewer: Dennis D Muhumuza.
Available: All leading bookstores. 
Will Nick Twinamatsiko be the one to write the great Ugandan novel that will distinguish him like Nigeria’s Chinua Achebe, Kenya’s Ngugi wa Thiongo or Senegal’s Sembène Ousmane? That question kept roaming through my mind after reading his first autobiographical novel, Jesse’s Jewel. 
Subtitled 'A parable of the Lost Love,' the novel is an interestingly peculiar read largely because, besides a raging conflict between the conventional and the unconventional, it explores “memory’s partiality towards peculiarities.” 
The protagonist sees life as a curve and as he grows up more in wisdom, he’s not at all surprised that “memory concentrates its interest on the turning points.” 
At the tender age of four months while on his mother’s back, he sees his cousin hit by a shell; then his mother’s description of the monstrous pains she braved birthing him, the piercing whips on his buttocks from his drawing teacher and meeting a drunkard reciting Shakespeare are some of the things that stand out in his young mind. 

Then he begins contemplating the mystery of God, who he hears is everywhere and all-seeing; was God watching when he did “dead things” with girls, which his cousin introduces to him, saying they are sweeter than mangoes? He’s gripped by the fear that he may not have a seat in heaven, which comes with the dreaded everlasting torment in hell. 
As he seeks the answers to life’s hardest questions, the women of the village dismiss the inquisitive 6-year-old, advising his mother to rush him to a witchdoctor. Fate brings the clever 16-year-old Helen into the life of Jesse, and she begins explaining things that troubled the solitary mental faculties of the young boy. She convinces Jesse that his peculiar fascinations, talents and physical characteristics point to a peculiar purpose and challenges him to keep true to himself and identify and fulfil that for which God placed him on the earth. 
Soon enough, Jesse’s peculiarities become his source of satisfaction and pride. When Helen suddenly dies, he’s shattered and struggles to remain as original as God created him. At school, he meets staggeringly beautiful girls that inspire much of his poetry but few come close to stirring his curiosities as Helen did. 
As more pages turn, you get the feeling that Jesse is an unrepentant braggart and idealist but upon much reflection, it strikes you that it’s only because he’s a man of distinct features and talents that the society in which he lives has failed to reconcile with. 
Besides, childhood events and the intellect of Helen have had a powerful psychological influence on his life that he cannot extricate himself from especially when he ponders what a genius like him should achieve.
At university, Jesse realises that his potential is in his imagination and ingenuity; that the Civil Engineering course he’s pursuing won’t help him attain the fullness of his potential. 

He begins to reminisce about his childhood: how he found beauty in the spectacles and sounds of nature while his own peers were indifferent, the mystery and beauty he discovers reading the Bible, his intense desire to leave a mark on the world, and he concludes that “every person’s peculiar path, is a function partly of his choices – both the wrong and the wise – but mainly of the invisible hand (of God)”. 
The 156-page novel is written in the first person, which gives it the desperation and intimacy that heightens with the protagonist’s inner conflicts. The writer’s preoccupation with the peculiarities of life is counterbalanced by humour, romance and a poetic language. 
The author’s tale sounds more like a trumpet call to readers to challenge convention and pursue what stirs our affections if we are to become the heroes of our own lives. 
Published by Pilgrim Publications, the book won this year’s second best of the National Book Trust of Uganda literary award in the published novel category. It’s a recommendable read especially for students torn between what choices to make in life as they pursue the academic careers that will affect the rest of their lives.