THE FISHERMEN.
THE FISHERMEN - A REVIEW.

 Perhaps this book might not have been on my to-read list but after deciding to reduce the rate of my reading American books and settling for Nigerian books, The Fishermen was bound to come up sooner or later, moreso considering my new found craze for new and emerging writers including E.C Osondu, Okey Ndibe, Chika Unigwe amongst others.

Again, this book might not have been considered for a review by me but considering that a number of my friends have hinted that they do not quite comprehend or grasp the plot of the novel.

The book is set in Akure, the capital of Osun state in the South-Western part of Nigeria and adapts a juxtaposition of English, Pidgin English with spatterings of Yoruba and Igbo. This I think is the first lesson the writer wants the reader to draw from the book- the failure of Nigerian parents to effectively teach their offsprings the art of conversing in their local dialect. He shows that when a family leaves the confines of their language setting, children born outside such never really pick up the need to learn how to speak their own native language.
 "Aside from this, Mother said all else in English instead of Igbo, the language with which our parents communicated with us; while between us, we spoke Yoruba, the language in Akure."

Chigozie Obioma's The Fishermen is chiefly about four boys of the Agwu family- the eldest Ikenna, then Boja, Obembe and Benjamin. The book is written through the eyes of Ben who is now a grown man and seems to be reminiscing his childhood years. After their stern, disciplined and lover of high sounding words father is transferred to Yola, the Northern part of Nigeria because of work, the boys lose every form of composure and bask in their new found freedom.

It is in one of these searches for fun that the boys discover fishing which turns out to be the sport that plunges them into deep problem, for it is at the Omi-Ala River, the place where the fishing occurs that they meet with a local madman. Known as Abulu, the madman often makes negative prophecies which in the long run often come to fulfillment.

He makes a prophecy on Ikenna that "... you shall die by the hands of a fisherman." As Ikenna will later say "He saw a vision that one of you will kill me". It is this prophecy that the novel is hinged upon and develops the plot. It is this prophecy that keeps the reader's interest in the book. It is this prophecy that leads the reader to begin to ask: Does the prophecy come to fulfillment? Or is it just the ranting of a madman?

The prophecy leads to a dwindle in the love, loyalty, and trust of Ikenna for his brothers. He believes that his brothers, at least one of them is the fisherman who is going to kill him. Sometimes, he wants to believe that his brothers have no aim to kill him but the prophecy like a cankerworm has eaten deep into the fabric of his mind that he finds it difficult to expunge the prophecy from his mind.
"The prophecy, like an angered beast, had gone berserk and was destroying [Ikenna’s] mind with the
ferocity of madness, pulling down paintings, breaking walls, emptying cupboards, turning tables until all that he knew, all that was him, all that had become him was left in disarray."
 "For a moment, Ikenna seemed lost. Our words, it seemed, had had an impact on him, and for the first time in many weeks, my eyes and those of the others met his."

In the meantime, the madman 'prophet' Abulu keeps making prophecies but what concerns the reader is how Ikenna is eventually murdered by Boja during a brawl.
"It was obvious these eyes could not glimpse a thing. His tongue was stuck out of his mouth from which a pool of white foam had trailed down to the floor, and his hands were splayed wide apart as though nailed to an invisible cross. Half-buried in his belly was the wooden end of Mother’s kitchen knife, its sharp blade deep in his flesh."

As if the loss of Ikenna is not enough for the family and the reader to deal with. The novelist reveals that "Boja’s body was floating atop the water, his clothing formed a parachute behind him, bloated like a full balloon."

The novel should have taken the title of Achebe's most powerful novel "Things Fall Apart" because of how the plot pans out. Perhaps, this is why critics have noted that Obioma is indeed an heir and a protege of Achebe.

From here, Obembe begins to plan his revenge against Abulu who he believes his responsible for the family's predicament. He cries and smokes night after night, a "small man of sorrow". In the long run, he finally kills the madman with the aid of his brother, Ben, but this sends the latter to prison while he himself flees to the ancient city of Benin.

In truth, the book presents more questions than answers and this might pose a problem for any reader. Questions like who is largely responsible for the misfortunes in the book? Abulu for initiating the prophecy? Obembe for speaking about it when he could have let silence overcome him? Ikenna for believing and letting the prophecy engulf him? Their mother, Pastor Collins, Iya Iyabo and the community folks for elevating a madman to the position of a prophet? Their father for not being around and making sure the life as a “a different kind of fishermen … fishermen of the mind. Go-getters. Children who will dip their hands into rivers, seas, oceans of this life and become successful: doctors, pilots, professors, lawyers.” is brought to fulfillment.

These are questions that will plague the reader's mind through his time with the book and even after it is done but all in all, Chigozie Obioma has written a book laden with emotion, a strikingly, fierce and interesting novel and it is therefore no surprise at its award for the Emerging Voices prize for African and Middle Eastern fiction and of course, its nomination for the Man Booker Prize 2015.

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