Tuesday, August 29, 2006

In Awe, Again

Ayi Kwei Armah


CHAPTER FIVE

"The reproach of the loved ones comes kindly when it comes in silence. Even when this silence is filled with the consciousness of resentment there is always the hope that they understand whatever vague little wishes there are to understand, as if one could forever keep up the pretense that is the difference between the failures and the hard heroes of the dream is only a matter of time. Time in which to leap across yards made up of the mud of days of rain; to jump over wide gutters with only a trickle of drying urine at the bottom and so many clusters of cigarette pieces wet and pinched in where they have left the still unsatisfied lips of the sucker. Time to sail with a beautiful smoothness in the direction of the gleam, carrying with easy strength every one of the loved ones; time to change the silent curses of the resentful loved ones and the deeper silent questions of those in whom pain and disappointment have killed every other emotion, time to change all this into the long unforced laughter of tired travelers home at last. But when the reproach of the loved ones grow into sound and the pain is thrown outward against the one who causes it, then it is no longer possible to look with any hope at all at time.

The man moved from the table and lay down on the bed pushed into the far corner of the hall and closed his eyes, but failure would not let him rest in peace. Arguments and counter accusations that had run many times round and round just underneath the surface of his mind now rose teasingly and vanished again beneath his confusion after they had multiplied it and deepened it beyond the point where it could be endured. A man, even a man who stumbled once, ought to be able to pick himself up and hurry after those who have gone before, a man ought to be able to do that, if only for the sake of the loved ones. And the man also who in his stumbling is pressed down with the burdens other than his own, he also must hurry. The judgment of the loved ones is no different from the judgment of the others, though in the lonely mind the loved ones may themselves look like a strong excuse for the failure and the fall. What would be the point, especially since these days outside the area of the gleam which made the loved ones suffer in their impatience, there was nothing worth pursing, nothing at all worth spending life’s minutes on?

There was nothing the man could say to his wife, and the woman herself did not look as if she thought there could be anything said to her about what she knew was so true. But inside the man the confusion and the impotence had swollen into something asking for a way out of the confinement, and in his restlessness he rose and went out very quietly through the door, and his wife sat there not even staring after him, not even asking where he was going or when he would come back in the night, or even whether he wanted to return at all to this home."

The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born

10 comments:

baz said...
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baz said...

I first read that book in 1993. It was a watershed point. There is reading before Armah, and then there is reading AFTER Armah. It changed my life. I swear it did.

Pancake said...

Iwaya, some advice please. check out my blog

minty said...

This writer paces the corridors of men's minds, grabs the debris in there and throws it all out for the world to see. You write like that too. (Ha ha, take a bow and blush).

Iwaya said...

@Baz, the book that changed my life...hmmmm...the book that changed my life wasn't even a noevl. it was a book of paintings and my love of art has never diminished. Armah helps me simply to understand where uganda is right now: demotivated, cynical, greedy, immoral. this is what armah is talking about in this book for me.
incidentally i'm reading Fragments, another Armah novel, its the toughest most depressing book i have read in a long time. the honest is searing and not sugarcoated. i think that's why its so disturbing.

@Minty, you are being too too generous! i'm terrified of accepting the compliment. I mean, this is Armah!

Kenyanchick said...

The first time I read this book I fell in love with it. Then someone stole it - happens all the time. Thanks for reminding me about it. I'm going to look for a copy this weekend, especially since I'm still in mourning for Mahfouz. I might as well drown my sorrows in some good Armah.

no longer in use said...

this sounds terrific. im going to have to read it. oh and i will update about spike lee soon!!

baz said...

I tell this story to everybody: I have bought that book no less than seven times. Every time I lose a copy (someone steals it) I have to buy a new one. And I never fail to find a copy.

Omni said...

Wow, that's powerful!!

bbkwan said...

Beautiful blog! I work with Ayi Kwei Armah and Per Ankh Publishers, an African publishing cooperative established by a worldwide association of friends and and the publishing home of Ayi Kwei Armah. Ayi Kwei has encountered difficulties in mailing his books out from Africa so he now has them printed in the US and shipped to me in San Francisco. We have just set up a webstore at: www.bbkwan.com where Per Ankh books can be ordered online.

Ayi Kwei Armah's latest book, The Eloquence of the Scribes, which is being serialized in the New African Magazine is available and reprints of Two Thousand Seasons have just arrived.

Please help us spread the word.