Linda Musita talked to Enkare editor, Carey Baraka about her short story, Squad, on Enkare Review this week, her writing process and feminism.
First, your story, Squad, is in the form of a conversation between two friends. What was the writing process for this particular story like?
They are not friends as friends should be, are they? Anyway, the story took five months to write. I tried writing it in first person and it didn’t come out right. Third person did not work either. So I decided to try writing it in the same style as I wrote Kudinyana…more dialogue and less description. It worked. The tone I was looking for fell into place and it was easier (and faster) to pass the message I wanted to pass in conversation form than it was in proper, traditional prose. Plus dialogue is my strongest writing weapon. I also edited it a lot. It touches on a sensitive issue and I could not afford to be misunderstood. I also wanted the final product to have as much weight as possible because most readers think that anyone who writes a conversation from start to finish and calls it a short story is lazy. Not the case. This story took a lot of my time and feelings. I am glad I don’t have to deal with it anymore.
Emmanuel Iduma: Do you remember when we met? I have a vague memory of Dami Ajayi showing you a short story I’d just written (God Sees Backward) and you said something about my poetry.
Adebiyi Olusolape: That feels like far away and long, long ago, but is it even eight years yet? If you had not given it, I would not have remembered the title of the story. However, I recall the thrill I got from reading that story even though I do not recall many of its particulars. The central character was a Christian preacher, right? And, the story was set against the backdrop of an ethno-religious conflict in Jos, or have I gotten it wrong?
The thing about your poetry is the realisation that your writing relied on a metonymic choice of words. You would be describing an everyday feeling, action or event but your word choice relied on substituting unexpected words for the ones I would naturally expect in those contexts. The journey of reading you meant arriving at familiar places but through oblique routes.
Your writing kept compelling my thoughts to move laterally. From time to time, this lateral movement would run into the concreteness of a solid metaphor. I think it all worked because much of your action played out in the mind of a character or the narrator. The physics and geography of inner worlds allows for that kind of thing. And, your characters were notable for their odd notions, so the technique and the ideas it was used to portray reinforced each other.
Readers of Namwali Serpell’s work are no strangers to her ‘unusual’ and experimental writing style. Her short story, Account, on Enkare Review this week is in the format of a bank statement and the credit card transactions therein, “read slowly and carefully, the way detectives read bank statements,” give us the sad and tragic tale of a young girl.
The entire story, Account, is a bank statement. What was the process of writing this story like?
I was recovering from surgery when I wrote this story. I spent an inordinate amount of time in bed working on the design layout. I wanted it to look exactly like a real bank statement. I was pleased to learn that I succeeded with at least one reader. When I emailed it to my agent, he thought I had been on such strong pain medication that I had deliriously sent him my own bank statement by mistake!
In August this year, two Kenyans, Redscar Mcodindo K’oyuga and I, were shortlisted for the Babishai Niwe Poetry Award (BNPA) in Kampala, Uganda. Despite having taken part in several writing projects together, Redscar and I had never met before. We first met at Maria’s Place in Ntinda, Kampala where the BNPA festival was taking place. Dressed in a checked shirt and brown khaki trousers, he came and sat next to me then went in for a handshake. I shook it with the irritability of a distracted man before going back to the discussion at hand. Then he said, “Sanya, you’re Sanya, right? My name is Redscar.”
He is a reclusive man, Redscar, often keeping away from most groupings, and if you find him in one, you won’t hear him say much.
Immediately after the BNPA festival, he left Kampala for Kisumu, where the inaugural Nyanza Literary Festival (NALIF) was taking place. There, he would win the NALIF poetry prize and in Kampala, he would become the winner of the Writivism Okot p’Bitek Prize for Poetry in Translation.