A Dream at Night is a vivid reincarnation of the present's past . . .
Introducing the novel… A
Dream At Night
When Bode Osanaiye, the author of A Dream At Night, was invited to Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, by the Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka-Chinua Achebe-funded Association of Nigerian Authors in October-November 2009, with, yes, all air fares and hotel expenses paid, he was really amazed, if not shocked. This was because he had written only three chapters of the book, and it was his first book ever; but at this time, the President of ANA, Africa’s largest and most vibrant intellectual association, Dr. Wale Okediran, had already taken cognizance of, according to him, “the grip” that the first three chapters had on him and had encouraged the author to hasten steps to complete the novel as soon as he possibly could. First of all, the author did not know that he could ever be invited to such a big, prestigious programme as the Atiku Abubakar Literary Project – involving Africans, Europeans and Americans, all in one big place – as a starter, and besides, Atiku Abubakar, who was the immediate past Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, had his eyes watchfully fixed on the project in terms of financial and logistic support. A Dream At Night, however, eventually roused a massive interest throughout the programme, with its author pleasantly turning down publishing offers from a few quacks who were easily and conspicuously seen loitering around the predatory precinct of the literary podium at the American University of Nigeria, Yola, Nigeria, where the ANA/Atiku Abubakar Literary Project is still resident till date. The author quickly concluded that the only thing he would like Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe, the two founders of the Association of Nigerian Authors, to do was to ensure that such fora was rid of quack publishers who are all out to ‘steal’ works from unsuspecting writers who would jump at any offer as long as their books are printed. Bode, therefore, knew what he wanted from the onset, even though he could read the overtures coming from Nigeria’s literary greats and the so-called ‘conservative publishers’ whom they have surrounded themselves with for over half a century.
APREVIEW of A Dream At Night
byDominique Vitalis Atem Ako,
Camerounian poet and literary critic
A vivid reincarnation of the present’s past, a smear of pre- and contemporary independent Africa’s traditional diplomacy; the strongest inference and reference work yet of African literature of all ages. A complete philosophy behind dug-up historical bequeathing that must haunt every black man in the Diaspora. Rare, daring courage of Bila’s gender which contemporary Africans must muster to fight and extinguish imperialism, both within and without, in all its facets. Bode’s A Dream At Night is no longer a building; it has become a monument, a monumental literary achievement. The author’s intendments are a far cry from what it has become.
Can we say that the missionaries have successfully infiltrated Africa “with Christian ideology”? Surely, Bila’s non-conformist stance attempts to clear the air on this controversial question. For example, we have, for crying out loud, a 15 year old girl, here triumphing valiantly, brilliantly and gloriously over circumstances akin to colonial aggression and imperialist ‘gloom.’ Anka, the primordial Nigerian setting of the novel is unique of slavery, the trade in slaves, the buying and selling of men, colonial, neocolonial, and imperialist discovery, exploration and exploitation; not entirely void of some quasi socio-economic and techno-scientific legacies which the western world, through her sovereign octopus, has either half-heartedly feigned wishful granting or stubbornly resisted such franchise to the detriment of global peace and stability.
The semi-parochial status of this somewhat fictitious setting drinks the wine of her slave drivers and spontaneously sends the four geo-cardinal points around her enclaves to almost perpetual drunkenness, rivalry, jealousy, spying, mistrust and fear; a concocted buildup of anarchy, rebellion and bloodshed.
With a web-wobbled blood that aptly stitches every note of suspense, the novel is richly assembled, incubated and hatched by an equally entertaining literary prowess of Bode, it’s author, who presents storytelling in prosaic genre as perhaps the simplest most daring means of seeking justice where it has once been delayed and denied; advocating for economic self-empowerment in a society that has been oriented to ‘parasite’ dependently on the macro-economic philosophy of eternal indebtedness: preaching the religious beliefs of a society among her citizens who have been brainwashed by western religious myths – grossly embellished in semantic cacophonies such as taboos, heresy, blasphemy, profanity, sacrilege, gospel evangelism and dogma.
Also, we see power-play, avarice, greed, stealing, bloodshed, famine, cunning, fear, oppression and subjugation in the animal kingdom even as seen in the midst of men.
A Dream At Night is a compendium of themes beyond vengeance criss-crossing the very fabric of this didactic literary presentation vis love, feudalism, fight over land, polygamy, cuckolding, greed, avarice, cupidity, the idea of chastity before marriage, the supernatural, mental and physical dehumanization, sexual harassment, among others meticulously advanced by the author.
Bode subconsciously hypnotises the reader with candidly hyper-dimensional array of alliterations, paramount amongst which are his positively crafted use of humour, well-timed situational contrasts, apt coincidences, sociological fore and hind sights, similes, adages, proverbs, dramatic irony, suspense, the un-oblivious use of metaphorical punctuations, rhetoric, poetry and poetic symmetry, puns, hyperboles for emphasis, apostrophe, rhyming, flashback, magical realism, monologues, among others.
The conjectured style of the novel hinges on imaginative hind and fore sights culminating into mass-historical and archaeological fiction. Simply prosaic as the novel appears, the bluntness of Bode’s tone for and against social ills, presupposes his craft to be of profound philosophical, didactic, as well as unbiased scholastic astuteness devoid of sermonizing and moralizing; warranting not just literal perusal and appraisal of pages, but equally wrinkled framework for adjudication, assimilation and pedagogic dissemination.
A Dream At Night, to my mind, is diabolically evocative.
The cultural values, that is, beliefs, customs and ethics of the Anka clan are unique all over Africa and beyond especially in pre- and post- colonial enclaves where facets of a new world discovery, scrambling, partitioning , exploration, exploitation and brainwash had been rife. Magical realism: myths, omens, the belief in premonitions, ghost, night dreams, spiritual shrines, abominations, and the offering of sacrifices depict the Anka clan a carbon or blueprint of our contemporary society from Cape Coast to Cairo, Dakar to Nairobi; in deed Africa in miniature.
These beliefs and cultural values are the bane of contrast in the novel: contrast between the infiltrators and the Aborigines of Anka; the score for settlement between the exploiters and the hospitable indigenes; in deed the conflict and the bone of contention between master and servant . . . the west osmotically sapping Bode’s almost realistically fictitious society, Anka.
The west, we all agree, is not the best,
Yet it is where we lay our chest.
One among much rhetoric to be answered is the above epigram relative to religious-oriented education that is fast leaving the Ankan people in gross confusion and ambiguity. Hence, while King Oloyi bedfellows with Mr. Stevenson, his white man, he repudiates the latter’s system of education which appears to be for a select few. He imagines only madness and nothing else, relative to western values. He can drink to stupor whisky imported from the west or worship ornamental gifts but is skeptical of the need to know how to produce them.
Bila discerns that western idiosyncrasy is a bait to lure the people of Anka into Christianity; such politics she would not be complacent with, and so she crashes the lithograph of the Queen of England on the floor, exhibiting a violent brand of resistance to British entry, colonialism and missionary Christian work, and hence commissioning the advance of a fatal brand of rebellion in Anka, to the chagrin of the King of Anka, Bode’s fictitious enclave, which in itself, is symbolically Africa, per se.
A Dream at Night opens with Bila, the 15-year old protagonist of the novel, still furious about her father’s assassination after five years. Her mother, Sandi, seeing that no prevarications are to be entertained, opens up to her daughter and tells her of the need to avoid the King of the town of Anka, King Oloyi, and even the town itself, like a plague, as it is possible that the King may have connived with some members of the British army in inflicting a mortal wound on Anawa, Bila’s father, by means of a metal weapon, which cost him his life. Shortly after the conquest of Anka by the present King, the King has proposed to Sandi and she flatly declines and eventually falls in love with Anawa. Failing to win Sandi’s love, the King has put a curse on Sandi, in the hope that she may never conceive or bear a fruit in her womb, and that she may afterwards wander into the forest where she would find her fate. As it turns out, this web of occurrences may well be the beginning of Anka’s downfall.
Sandi conceives many years later, after an array of terribly discreditable pregnancy searches, and gives birth to Bila, “her first and last.” This same Bila would gradually define or redefine, as the case may have been for Anka, the meaning of redemption, failing, in the main, to find all the peaceful paths to it. Bila grows up to be a thorn in the flesh for the invading British men and most importantly too, for King Oloyi who begins to send her marital emissaries as soon as Bila clocks the age of fifteen.