Writing has its forgettable aspects – such as those misspelt words, grammar misses and all other unsavoury word smears that make even the best of us want to crawl and hide our head in shame. But then, only those with experience can ever begin to equate the joy that races through a writer’s blood at the sight of his/her words in print, open and accessible to public view.
This feeling, I know from experience, can be exhilarating when one’s story – which to a writer is akin to a progeny, and is at times treated with the copious protectiveness a mother bestows upon a child – appears in a journal – online or print, it does not matter. However, those who have experienced it, say this feeling is multiplied a thousand times when you hold in your hands, for the first time, a bound copy of your sweat and anguish, personified by a work of literature, and gets suffused by the smell of gum on fleshly minted paper.
Perhaps it is a feeling similar to this that a writer friend, Sylva Nze Ifedigbo, felt a few days ago when he was given the first copy of his soon to be released collection of short stories “The Funeral did not End” at CORA House, venue of what was to be his first reading from the book.
Attending Sylva Ifedigbo’s first reading was a very personal decision for me, since I consider the writer a friend and colleague. I first took notice of Sylva, who I prefer to call by his somehow apt native name, Nze, online about two years ago. Like many aspiring writers of this generation, Sylva was making use of the available online portals to publish his literary efforts. I first noticed his politically charged articles in Nigeria Village Square and Sahara reporters, before I started seeing his short stories here and there.
Since I was also using some of these avenues to “air” my own works, it was inevitable that we would jam, like we say in Nigeria. After reading some of his short stories in Story Time and other online media, I felt a kind of affinity with him, as a writer and as a person – let’s just say I lean towards people who have something to say and say it with a conviction that borders on fearlessness.
With the foregoing, I guess you would understand my happiness and sense of pride when I learnt that Ifedigbo’s collection was done and ready for the public. Like I said before, I have had the privilege of reading some of the works that make up this collection and can vouch for the inherent talent of the writer and not be found wanting on that count, bias aside.
The reading, which was well attended by literature enthusiasts – mostly youths though, as the old masters stayed away as usual (someone should remind me soon to ask the old generation why they shy away from literary events organised by the younger generation). Ayo Arigbabu, CEO of DADA books, Sylva Ifedigbo’s publisher, introduced his newest author and kicked-started the event, which was meant to be interactive with the writer on show unusually required to also moderator of the event.
After introducing himself, the easy going Sylva Ifedigbo picked “call room” a short story about a young doctor’s amorous intentions towards his female colleague. The fact that the story went deeper than just a treatment of the happenings in and around a hospital call room, which the writer said he set out to write, shows the strength of Ifedigbo’s talent.
Perhaps, the main character being a medical doctor, just like the writer, and the fact that the story was written in the first person POV, was the reason why many in the audience felt the story was Sylva’s personal experience. Though Ifedigbo vociferously denied the story being about himself, he however reluctantly admitted that some aspects of the story, such as, “when I first aired the desire of wanting to be a writer, father looked at me like I had farted in his presence” were quite close to his personal experience and could be said to have been influenced by them, though not consciously.
While most people were quick to disagree with the writer on the sources of his story, few argued with the fact that he is opinionated and is not afraid to allow his views tint his writing, and he does this in a way that is by no means condescending.
One conspicuous thing at that first reading is the ability of the writer to grant power to the mundane. Ifedigbo said his intention is to tell everyday Nigerian stories, not really by concentrating on particular themes, but by writing across themes, stories that he felt strongly about.
According to Ifedigbo, who did a very good job moderating his own show, young Nigerians rarely go out of their way to read topical issues in the news, and he believes one way to get them to do so is to wrap them up in fiction.
Ifedigbo selected another of his short stories “Lord of the Creek” set in the Niger Delta region as his second reading. Like the one before it, “Lord of the Creek” bore testament of the writer’s social belief.
His third selection, “Guilt Trip”, a moving short story about hidden guilt, written in the second person, cemented the fact that Ifedigbo’s career as a writer is not a fluke and that his impact will surely be felt across the globe.