Sir Gabo writes from his popular hometown -Sakora Wonoo to defend Bernadine Evaristo, the joint-winner of the Booker Prize in 2019.
Dear Valued Reader,
When the judges of the prestigious literary award broke the rules and jointly awarded the 2019 Booker Prize for Fiction to Margaret Atwood for The Testaments and Bernardine Evaristo for Girl,Woman,Other – their decision attracted a high level of media attention and criticism.
Among the critics is Martin Amis, a British satirist who crticized Evaristo’s work by saying: “You don’t feel a literary push behind it. It’s politics. It’s sociopolitical.”(London Evening Standard, Friday, 23 October, 2020).
Amis is a famous author. Among some of his notable books include: The Rachel Papers(1973) Money(1984) The Pregnant Widow(2010). When I focus my mind on the titles alone and other writers’ novels which time and space have allowed me to read, I wonder if there could be any literary work that would be completely free from interweaving into interconnected ideas that border on sociopolitical issues as Amis wants us to believe.
When Charles Dickens wrote his famous novel: Oliver Twist, he used his literary work to draw the attention of the British people to the negative consequences of the BritIsh Industrial Revolution on the country and how children were compelled to engage in child labour to earn a living. His work also delved into other social and economic issues within the British society at that time.Similarly, when Chinua Achebe wrote his famous novel:Things Fall Apart in 1958, he demonstrated to the world how Nigerians contact with the western civilisation had undermined the culture, social, economic and political issues of Nigeria and for that matter African continent.
Evaristo defends herself by stating: “Amis seems to belong to the school of privileged male writers of a certain generation who have benefited from a white patriarchal society for decades. She thinks such authors: “Do not like seeing people of colour, working class, female writers publishing good books that do well.”
Martin Amiss intellectual posturing against Evaristo seemed to represent all the metaphors that have been used as a verbal attack by other critical women writers dating back in the century 17th. Women writers from that era considered their literary work as in a form of ‘pen and ink’ denied.( Literature in the Modern World: Critical Essays and Documents)
One wonders whether Amis was trying to blow away any significant truth Evaristo writings may contain with the usual attitude of male chauvisnitic posturing and ridicule.
The moment a book is published, it gives the author a unique position as an individual with some ideas and perspectives to share with the big society out there.
I strongly believe in the literary notion – that has been amplified in a book entitled: Literature in the Modern World: Critical Essays and Documents – that the birth of a reader automatically leads to the death of an author.Not only do writers put pen to paper and write from their own perspectives on any genre of their choice but readers also interprete whatever they read to fit their own perceived imaginations and biases.
This scenario seeks to give some powers to potential readers who may give their own meanings to the subject-matter that has been written. In consequence, the moment the voice of a reader begins to roar, it overshadows everything the author has written.
When Martin Amis made his demeaning observations about Evaristo’s novel not only did he destroy the voice and personality of the Professor of Creative Writing but rather pathetically, failed to accept the beliefs, ideas and her creative veins that empower her to enjoy her rewarding writing career.
Evaristo has succeeded in writing a one- sentence novel that comprises 452 pages using the voices and actions of twelve characters one of whom is called Amma Bonsu. At page 24 she writes: “The Last Amazon of Dahomey written and directed by Amma Bonsu where in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries women warriors served the king.”
Her novel delves into history, talks about the dynamics of the current British society and points to the future. No wonder Sunday Times describes it as ” Exuberant, freewheeling, triumphant. A big, bold, sexy book that cracks open a world that needs to be known.”
Like Amis who has shared his rich ideas and perspectives with the reading public through the numerous novels he has written, Evaristo has equally proved her worth as a modern British writer with a constant level of literary value. It is, therefore, as wrong as demoralizing for any literary critic to have any inkling of consigning Evaristo’s liberal thoughts into history.
Kofi Asante(Sir Gabo)
The Sakora Wonoo Economist.
Kofi Asante is the author of the novel – Hunting for Freedom: The Magic of Sakora Wonoo. It is fascinating and easy to read.You can order your copy from Amazon, Waterstones,Walmart, Ebay, Barnes and Noble, Booktopia, Abebooks and Withoutbooks.