Publisher: Origami Books [Parrésia Publishers Ltd], Lagos
Captivity should never be given a positive spin, except the captor is a writer and the “victim” is the reader. Every writer hopes to be a “captor” (or better yet, a captivator), but not all succeed. Of those that succeed, only a few are known; many go as unsung heroes. Michael Afenfia, based on his newest work of fiction, Don’t Die on Wednesday, is one of those unsung heroes. And I proclaim myself as one of his trumpeters!
The title, Don’t Die on Wednesday, may easily be rubbished as already given away all there is to the novel. But on a second look, it dawns on the critical mind that there’s certainly a lot more to the title. At that juncture, Afenfia’s spell begins to take effect. The reader is jinxed the moment he reads the first word – and escape is not an option till one gets to the last word.
The central character Bubaraye (aka Mango), Tottenham FC’s top striker, celebrates his goal in a marquee fixture against Manchester United. As he celebrates that goal, he also nails his career’s coffin. It takes a toll on his life, his work, his super-model wife Nikiwe and their son Sleeve. As his career nosedives, his wife seeks to revive her docile career and ends up in a betrayer’s arms. She herself is a betrayer, but one with an empathetic course. Bubaraye is down but not out. Hence, he figuratively sows seeds into the future on his return to Nigeria when he pumps life into a dead Nigerian club. He discovers Sese, aka Ricochet, and brings his soccer dream to pass, but not without a life-and-death incident.
Fiction, like drama, thrives on suspense, and a writer’s success can be gauged based on how they deploy the right quantum of suspense at the right time to achieve an intended goal. But as much as Afenfia deploys suspense, he seems to have also gone all out to thwart all of suspense’s 10 or so commandments.
Centred around football andeverything else in-between, Don’t Die on Wednesday attempts to be as true-to-life as a novel can possibly be. Not only does the author use the appropriate diction in the football register at the right time, he also brings the narration closer home with the mention of real life football personalities that the reader can relate with. For me, this is the most memorable parts: when Mango’s brother tells him to consider switching to football commentary, SuperSport’s football commentator and ex-Super Eagles’ star, Victor Ikpeba’s name is mentioned – “The guy dey blow grammar anyhow, he doesn’t care oh. Whether he says ‘was’ instead of ‘is’, or ‘came’ instead of ‘come’, the most important thing is that Supersports dey pay am steady. … It’s not what you do with the English language or how good you look in a suit, but how well you know your football.”
The novel is segmented into two almost equal parts, each starting with a short poem. Not to worry: you need not be a Literature-in-English to understand it 😊.