For a debut novel, Nakhane Tourè’s Piggy Boy’s Blues is a definite literary hit. With a contemporary appeal that 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 more creative than a novel with a solid storyline, the plot develops steadily enough; the characters are relatable, and the set is well symbolized and described. In addition, 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 used 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 novel’s language is not explicit, neither is it subtle. One has to read between the lines to understand the book fully. It is also important to state that the book’s reception, 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 simultaneously, 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, every character exemplifies typical human beings- Africans, to be precise.
For instance, Jeremiah personifies the youthful African young man who, during his heydays, was carefree, lazy, stubborn, fashion savvy and flirty, aptly 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. But, alas, he finds himself caught in a web of obsessive relationships that end in tragedy for him. I believe he lost his mind at a point- he actually thinks he’s a prophet. But, perhaps, that was 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 in detail. 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 points to the queer streak in Ndimphiwe, but the author didn’t quite name it.
Another thing I was not too fond of the book because 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, due to the too many transitions.
I also feel that the story was more poetic than it was narrative. But, for some queer reason, it also felt as if Nakhane and Davide were the same people- almost like the book is a memoir of Nakhane’s own personal experiences, especially regarding the denial of homosexuality and all things related to it.
In conclusion, I strongly believe that Nakhane is definitely one to watch out for. This book will be a bestseller, even though it won’t be popular in homophobic African societies like Nigeria because it seems to normalise homosexuality subtly.
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.
What did you think of the review? Hit us up in the comments section.