KWENU: Our Culture, Our Future
A Novel by M. O. ENÉ (Dr. MOE)
Friday, February 4, 2011
“At times, human beings are better off leaving certain things alone
to play out because those things are destined to happen.
They must happen for undesired events to fold.
Unnecessary provocation triggers unneeded sequence of events to unfold and hold.”
(M. O. ENÉ, Nnénna, p. 66)
On the above lines, lifted from Nnénna, the novel by Dr. M.O. Ené, all of his imaginative and fulfilling stories are predicated. Who can argue with such a wisdom-filled statement; who can doubt the sagesse of the sage himself in the person of the author of Nnénna?
I am not a professional literary critique, and I do not lay any claim to expertise in the field. My only claim is being a literature student, studying foreign literature as a discipline in my undergraduate work. This probably means that I can appreciate good stories and perhaps have a fair grasp of what to look for in an author and his or her method of delivering to his audience.
Having known Dr. MOE a little over a decade now, I have had the privilege of reading a few of his books. One thing that stands out at all such times is that I find a somewhat addictive attitude that prevents any sleep till the last page is turned, then the sudden disappointment that follows at the end of that last page because I just realized it ended. There is the desire for more, and I find myself trying to complete the story in my mind – a nostalgia if you may call it so – which lingers for a few days till other life occurrences take the mind in different directions.
Nnénna stands out in so many ways. The characters are so crafted that they represent the very being that most people will aspire to be. I take particular interest in the character of Obiagæli, Gilbert’s mother. Her life and death seemed calculated as though she was playing a role, knowing when to depart in order for the other preplanned roles to emerge – “She had carried the cross of a luckless marriage …; it was time to drop it before it affected her son.” (p. 20)
In an almost vexing manner, Dr. MOE again deliberately allows one’s imagination to run wild here. I asked: Did Obiagæli mastermind her own exit, as in inducing her death – so as not to pass the ill luck to her only son, Gilbert? This is an example of the playful and unique way Dr. MOE excites his readers to keep wanting more. You want to know what he was thinking when he wrote those lines. There are many other such lines; you love him and hate him at the same time for this control which he has on your mind once you pick up any of his books and start reading, for only Dr. MOE knows what the answer is, and he is not saying he does.
Only such a great author with such deep knowledge of the Igbo culture and its beliefs will create a character as Obiagæli who said “one is enough” -- as in one marriage, one union, and one child. This is most interesting as it is happening in a society that recognizes the continuation of a man’s life long after he is dead and buried. Nnanna Ike, Obiagæli’s late husband, could have continued having children with Obiageli long after he died because this is what the culture would have preferred. However, Dr. MOE wanted it the other way around, and he creates a woman that is rare and plants her in a culture that frowns at her decision to remain true to her husband, thereby accepting his death. Why did Dr. MOE do that? I can only see that through the situation; the story was built to the point he allowed us to read. What would have happened if Obiagæli kept to the custom and continued her marriage and procreation with Nnanna, long after Nnanna was dead and buried? Would Dr. MOE have had a different ending to Nnénna?
With Obiagæli’s character, the author actually did two novels in one. Though Nnénna tells the story of a unique relationship between a father and a daughter, the part of Obiagæli retells the story as a unique relationship between a mother and a son, even as that did not seem to be the immediate direction of the story in Nnénna. The ability to develop multiple books in one is what I call real talent. Ironically enough, Dr, MOE’s educational background is in science and engineering, yet he writes like he spent all his life studying the art of writing languages. I call him “l’homme avec plusieurs chapeaux” -- the man with many hats. But Dr. MOE encompasses much more that words become a scarce commodity with regard to finding the correct adjective to qualify him.
Am I being biased in my analysis of his work? Probably so because, unlike reading the works of such authors as Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Ola Rotimi, J.P. Clark, Jean Paul Sartre, Charles Dickens, Mariama Ba, Camara Laye, etc; all being such distinguished authors due to their unique methods, Dr. MOE offers much more -- at least, in my opinion. Maybe because I have read his other writings, which are not fictions but real discussions and, each time, he provokes a rare brain-struggle in an attempt to digest his wisdom. When you begin to read an author’s work from the bottom instead of the top with the aim of finding something logically wrong in the stories, but finding none, you must admit that there is an uncommon talent at work.
I asked if the perfection within the lines of Dr. MOE’s works could be attributed to his science background as in the precision with numbers or math so that, in the end, all adds up and fits perfectly into the shapes. But that cannot be the answer since the stories leave one’s imagination running long after reading his books, any of his books. There is something left unanswered, but you really don’t want it answered, yet you think about it.
It is like a mixture of denial and acceptance; you don’t know it, and you don’t know if knowing it is preferred to not knowing it. So you settle in the middle, not knowing what you probably really do not want to know. Like he reads your mind, Dr. MOE keeps you hanging, wanting more and daring you to say so. A sort of love game, not sure what that means, and then he gives you this –
“Love is a passing psychosis, a phase of deep psychological distraction, or a momentary mental mess of varying duration. Since all stages in sanity-insanity spectrum affect different people differently, different people react to love lunacy differently.” (p. 74)
That is exactly what I was trying to say, and he predicted my question, so he gave an explanation ahead of my asking the question. Nnénna does invoke similar feelings as Dr. MOE has craftily and preemptively written – in response to such questions.
Nnénna could be read and the story understood by all races and all cultures. Yes, the story is Igbo, mostly Nigeria-based, yet the story crosses all areas that appreciate the wise words or the sincere hearts as exemplified in Obiagæli’s last conversation with her son, Gilbert, before she made the short trip to the “other side” only to return in the person of Gilbert’s daughter, Nnénna; so she advised him…
“Do not kill… and I do not mean mere murder … murder is easy; spiritual killing is a sacrilegious stain. Never conspire against any person. Unguarded statements have driven many to early deaths. Whatever happens in life, there is a reason for it; often, it happens to teach you and others a lesson. Nobody is too old to learn. Life is not about what happened; it is about what you do with what happened.” (p. 21).
There is no culture that does not have similar beliefs. But only an author with real wisdom could transcribe these to read the way they do within these lines and in this book.
Then mixing the religions of “before” and the modern to produce a union is another classical item in these pages. Obiagæli, in reincarnation, has the last laugh when she avenged herself against the church by taking a precious item from the church for all her tribulations when she looked up to the church for protection. I did not see that coming at all, but when it hit, I was awed by the suddenness of the attack from Dr. MOE. What a sneaky way of taking one unawares? So Obiagæli as Nnénna takes Father Frank as “payback,” and the church could do nothing about it; au contraire, the church came out in all its force to bless the union of Nnénna (Obiagæli reincarnated) and Frank in holy matrimony, leaving the Vatican with one less lifeline.
What the hell! That was my thought when I got to this page.
I know that many have requested a sequel to Nnénna, the novel. I do not join them in that request; however, I encourage a continuation of the story through other works, not necessary a part-two or three and, better still, I encourage a motion picture of the work either as a screen play or theatric performance. Hollywood or Nollywood will be lucky to get an approval from M. O. Ené, to put Nnénna the novel into a movie.
I am not done with this, I shall return with more.
© Sinachi, 2011
Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo
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