For a debut novel, Nakhane Tourè’s Piggy Boy’s Blues is a definite literary hit. With a contemporary appeal which is at the same time very rich in deep-rooted black culture, the book is an assemblage of several stories within the main story. Though it seems to be more of creative writing than a novel with a solid story line, the plot develops steadily enough; the characters are relatable and the set is well symbolized and described. His descriptive prose style is very remarkable and you can’t but picture it in your mind’s eye, the rape scene for instance.
In describing the protagonist, Davide M’s emotional-struggles filled and personal demons infested journey to self discovery, the author made extensive use of literary and figurative tools and expressions, especially imagery, symbolism and allusion. I particularly love the biblical allusions. They were very apt. For example,
“He fought. He kicked. He sucked in air at every opportunity he was given. And in a wild panic…………………………………… He swam with all his might against the demonic current until finally he was lying on the mud, coughing and groaning, exhausted from the fight. Like Jacob with the angel”.
Written for ardent readers who actually appreciate literature, the language of the novel is not explicit neither is it subtle. One has to read between the lines to fully understand the book. It is also important to state that the reception of the book, by different categories of readers, will be mixed. For example, for readers who just read for the fun of it, this book will be complicated and confusing as there are lots of things going on at the same time and it would be quite tricky to understand. For some others, appreciation of this work will be like acquired taste to fine wine for it will take several readings to really get into it.
As for the plot, it flows in a liquid way, just like the lyrics of good music. Not surprising as Nakhane is a musician. He is indeed a master of his art.
Talking about the themes, there are several- homosexuality, rape, history, family and genealogy, violence, black magic and its eventual effects on mental health, denial, anger, religion among others- all beautifully pieced together with significant bible passages.
On their individual parts, each and every one of the characters exemplifies typical human beings- Africans to be precise.
For instance, Jeremiah personifies the youthful African young man who, during his hey days was carefree, lazy, stubborn, fashion savvy and flirty, aptly described as described as a first-grade Lothario; then later as a father- remorseful (for a life previously recklessly spent), unrelenting and not one to be intimidated (the cold war between him and his father), resourceful, strict (his disapproval of Ndod’enkulu’s voodoo practice, a loving father (though not one open to public display of affection) and spiritual (his brief trance).
Esther is a typical woman/mother- does things for love, even if it means breaking her own moral codes (getting pregnant before marriage and eloping with Jeremiah), worries about the things that many mothers are usually worried about (her son’s sanity and salvation), takes desperate measures when circumstances call for them (killing the snake) among other things.
Ndimphiwe, like every other flawed human being, has well disguised internal battles with his personal demons and underneath all the bravado and bluster, lies a sad, sad man.
Davide M, the main protagonist, is a typical young man from a troubled background, struggling with his own unique emotional-baggage while changing location with the hopes of finding peace for his troubled soul. Alas, he finds himself caught in a web of obsessive relationships that ends in tragedy for him. I believe he lost his mind at a point- he actually thinks he’s a prophet. Perhaps, that was as a result of his continuous, vehement denial of glaring truths.
Gray on his part, is the creepy devil’s advocate- the harbinger of evil and all things dark.
There are however, some aspects of the book that leave more to be desired.
To start with, while reading the book, there were times when I thought the characters were the same person as the transition from one character to the other were too sudden. It was as though the characters were apparitions. Here now and gone the next second, morphed into someone else.
Also, some conflicts were left unresolved while some parts of the story were disjointed and underdeveloped. For instance, Jeremiah and Ndod’enkulu’s stories should have been told further. I also feel that Ndimphiwe’s story should have been developed and told too. The same goes for Mdibanisi who just got passing mentions.
I also didn’t know what to make of the writer’s orientation towards homosexuality as he was neither here nor there. For example, the reference to the men at the ceremony who touched and kissed themselves showed that it was a societal norm, accepted by them all. On the other hand, the part where Gray and Davide drove to P.E to see Ndimphiwe and they saw him walk out of a classroom with his arm around another man’s shoulder suggests him to be gay though we are not quite sure because that gesture in itself doesn’t quite prove homosexuality. At the same time, considering the parts where he routinely makes coffee for Davide, lovingly prepares a bath for him after the latter’s ordeal at the river and where he kisses his head and cheeks- all are intimate gestures, especially considering that they are directed towards a man. All these point to the homosexual streak in Ndimphiwe but the author didn’t quite name it.
Another thing I didn’t like about the book is that the story transitioned too frequently back and forth between the present and the past. The jumps were too sudden and sharp, thereby giving some parts of the story a scattered feel. In fact, I was almost undecided as to who the protagonist really was- Jeremiah, Ndod’enkulu or Davide, as a result of the too many transitions.
I also feel that the story was more poetic than it was narrative. For some queer reason, it also felt as if Nakhane and Davide were one and the same person- almost like the book is a memoir of Nakhane’s own personal experiences, especially as regards the denial of homosexuality and all things related to it.
In conclusion, I strongly believe that Nakhane is definitely one to watch out for, and this particular book will be a bestseller, even though it won’t be popular in homophobic African societies like Nigeria because the book seems to subtly normalise homosexuality.
Overall, the novel is a definite page turner and if the talented Nakhane progresses at this speed, he’s definitely one to contend with as far as the literati is concerned.
All my love, TheBattosai™.
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