A: one must lay down his defenses in the face of the truth.
B: yes, yes, most certainly. But what is the truth?
One afternoon, kasali, a journalist in a regional newspaper with a small circulation, felt a great stirring within himself. As a result of this he shut himself up in his rooms and wrote a short novel in only a few days. He felt to himself, and he described to his friends afterwards, that he had been seized by an unknown force, which, taking hold of him, had with relentless vigor, brought the novel to fruition.
When it was done, he had it typed immediately, and placed it inside a file. He looked upon this file as a victorious general surveys a battlefield which has brought him his most famous victory. He wondered on the next step to make. Should he send it to the publishers? Which of the publishers? Perhaps he would first send it to Kawaka, they were the best publishers for this sort of book; they had a worldwide reach, they would promote the book with fanfare, for he believed in all honesty that he had written the Nigerian novel of the decade.
What a sensation he would cause, he would be feted at luncheons and garlanded with awards. No doubt the national prize for literature would come to him, and he would try to receive it in a spirit of humility mindful of the fact that genius was a gift from God, even as his fellow nominees extolled him and admitted that from the outset, having read his book, it was obvious to them all that they stood no chance and that he would win it. He knew what a responsibility it was to become the father figure of Nigerian literature, one to which the young writers looked up to as to a totem, an aspiration, and the old writers hailed publicly as the leading light of the next generation, and envied privately as the one who would make readers stop thinking about them with nostalgia. He realized all this with a calm perspicacity, and resolved to conduct himself with great decorum, posturing himself as not politically neutral but on the side of the masses, and taking care to avoid scandals even if he was unable to completely avoid the many women who would throw themselves at him. He realized that he would have to give readings here and there, which might be rather uncomfortable for him as he had a tendency to stutter, but he confidently waved the fears aside.
Even as he lay to sleep that night, his feet tingling, his future prospects had brightened greatly, and he looked at the basic details of his life in a different, more withdrawn light. Everything had happened for a purpose, and if he had suffered many privations in the past, it was all for the best, and necessary too, in order that his senses may achieve that keenness necessary for sustained and quality literary productions. Now and then he thought of his novel, “Night and Day” which would certainly turn out to be his crowning glory. It was only about thirty thousand words, thus rather thin for a novel, but that was for the publishers to sort out. On his own part, he had already made history; it was the duty of the rest of the world to see things in his own light. Into this work he had exhausted the entirety of his heart, and his will, and his feeling. His ideas too, about life, discordant and with a tendency for fleetingness, found their way into this simple story of a young man who braced great odds and made a success of life. Admittedly, he had based the physical appearance of the main character on himself, but that was all, their circumstances had been far different and the events which took place in the novel bore little similarities to his own. Thus, immersing himself in the delicious feeling of his monumental achievement, he fell asleep.
Off to work the next day, he took the file along with him, and kept it very conspicuously on his desk in the hope that a colleague might take an interest and reach for it so that he could loudly protest against this violation of his privacy, and snatching back the file, explain in earnest that it was his just finished novel, although of course he would add that he had been a couple of years at it, and that he had only a few days ago triumphantly finished it. All the same, he behaved all day as though he carried a pleasant and heavy secret within himself. Towards his colleagues he was both tolerant and condescending, realizing that in the near future, their paths would invariably diverge sharply. Again, he resolved to remain friends with them, and help them in whatever way he could. In any case, it was in his profit to do so, for certainly now and then, some of them would have to write reviews and articles concerning him. Towards the close of work, he found idle time, and he attempted to peer into his manuscript, but he read only the opening lines, felt something akin to delirium and carefully placing the manuscript aside, exalted in himself and began to take flights of fancy. Confirming his belief in the superiority of his novel, He decided that he must send it to the Kawaka publishers without delay, but lacking direct access to them, he decided to enlist the services of his editor, a man with strong connections. He would rather have it be a surprise to the editor, to have him find out in an accidental manner, but the present circumstances forced his hand.
He entered his editor’s office, and finding him in a languid mood was immediately discouraged, but all the same, he smiled at him and removing the manuscript from the file, stretched out his hand to hand it over.
“Ah kasali. So soon? Is that the story on the collapsed building?” The editor looked at him with approval.
“No” he said, thrusting his hands even more prominently at the editor. He wanted to surprise him.
The editor reached out for it, and took the manuscript. He turned the first page, then the second, then the third. He flipped through the pages randomly then he closed it, flapped it like a fan in acknowledgment of its brevity and tossed it atop a tray on his desk. He was clearly disappointed that it was not the story on the collapsed building.
“Night and Day. You want me to proofread it?”
“Well, yes”. And after a pause, “And then tell me what you think of it” and fearing that he had not made his point,” I want to send it to the publishers”.
The editor nodded his head in acknowledgement, reached for the remote control on his desk and turning on the television at a corner of the office, promptly settled his eyes on it.
Kasali stole away, rather disappointed.
Later, on deeper reflection, he understood what had happened in the editor’s office in another light. It was clear that the editor had not been feeling very well, or was preoccupied with one thing or the other. It would certainly pass and the editor would come around to reading it and recognize it for what it was. In the long run, he believed it was impossible to suppress genius.
All the same after a few days during which his editor did not drop any hint suggesting he had given any thought to his novel, he decided to prod him, for in the intervening period, his elevated sense of achievement had begun to whittle. He too, had passed his eye over his manuscript and had seen several deficiencies, but thought it likely that he was mistaken, and thus now, more than ever, he needed the opinion and validation of his editor.
He accosted him as he was going out in the company of one of his mistresses, she had waited more than an hour inside his office, even as people came and went, so that the editor felt he must make it up to her by appearing to be impatient with everyone else. Just as he locked the door of his office and turned to go, he found himself face to face with kasali, who, made timid by his corked up anxiety, said
“Sir, I have been waiting for your response”
The editor turned back immediately and opening his office, went in and reemerged with kasali’s manuscript.
He handed it to him without a word and went off with his pretty mistress who looked back at kasali and sighed. Kasali went off to his desk and leafing through the script, found it exactly as he had handed it over; he suddenly felt bitterness towards the editor, and unable to abide by himself, confided in his subordinate colleague, a new employee, who had a pair of roving eyes and had a penchant for expressing himself wordlessly.
“I gave oga my novel to read and he didn’t even bother to read it”
His colleague shook his head and shrugged, and kasali kept his manuscript inside his drawer.
In the passing days, he read and re-read it, and something definitely seemed to be lacking in it, an admittedly small flaw which he just could not grasp. Otherwise his novel was concise and perfect. All the same, he never grasped that small flaw, even as it caused him great vexation of spirit, and he took to reading his manuscript less and less frequently, until he largely forgot about it, and even when he remembered it, did not feel any inclination to read it.
A short while afterwards, On a Friday at the close of work, the colleague of the roving eyes fell in step with kasali as they walked down the stairs. He placed a hand on kasali’s shoulder.
“I’ve decided to stop working here” he said.
“Why, you have been here only a month? Have you gotten another job?”
Shaking his head in the negative, and then flashing a smile at Kasali, the young colleague hastened his step and disappeared from sight.
In a while, kasali forgot about him too. Such people as a rule do not make strong impressions
A year later his editor called him into his office and excitedly handed him a freshly printed tome.
“You will write a review of this book, it doesn’t have to be too long. Don’t worry, I know you’re busy. Take tomorrow off to read it, put everything else aside, just be sure i can have the review by Friday. My friends in the publishing business have sneaked it to me that this by far the most important novel written by a Nigerian in decades”
Kasali looked the book over, studied the photograph on the cover page and leafed through the early pages. He closed it slowly, even as a fact of great import dawned on him.
His boss continued
“And who would believe that he worked here? Make sure you mention that fact in your article. Yes. I’ve always known that boy was going places. I ought to congratulate him. In fact, I think I should have his phone number somewhere”
The editor fiddled about his phones, and not finding the number, reached into his drawers and pulled out old diaries, peering into them hurriedly, beside himself with excitement, so that he did not realize that kasali had left his office.