Here’s a quick question : have you come across a book that grabs your attention from the very first page till you get to the last word and when you do, you want more? Have you? A Small Silence by Jumoke Verissimo was that book for me. It caught my attention, invited me in and gave me a seat to enjoy its pages at a closer range. I felt welcomed to the story, I found bits of myself in it and things I could relate to. If only it wasn’t so short.
Professor Eniolorunda Durotimi Akanni is an ex-academic and an activist who was passionate about clamouring for change.He saw himself as the light in the darkness that was his country Nigeria and felt he had a duty to help the helpless people that are being oppressed by the warped system day in day out. He didn’t care whose ox was gored nor the feet he trampled on in the process, he was all about speaking his truth beginning from his days as a student. Unfortunately, it lands him in jail and thus begins his relationship with darkness, light and the voice in his head.
The story begins when he gets back from prison after 10 years of pain, torture, estrangement and detachment from the world. He comes back a different man, somewhat subdued and detached from things like, the ability to connect with his once closest friend and ever doting mother. He withdraws from the world like a snail into its shell, finding home in the dark comfort of his father’s house, walking the streets at night with a veil covering him and having conversations with Desanya, the voice in his head which he gives a name based on a pre-imprisonment memory. His self-induced isolation lasts until a young woman knocks on his door and after a while of ignoring, he caves in to her consistent knocking and opens the door, which signifies his slow but steady journey to unravelling his mysteries, his past experiences, unpacking his emotions, making subtle amends, letting himself feel and stepping into the light.
The language of the work is precise, simple and detailed. It makes the reading journey a smooth experience. It lets you take part in the conversations and make you feel comfortable in the dark and even the small silences. It explores the theme of trauma, mental health, friendship, politics, the changes that time orchestrates and the ambiguity of darkness. A Small Silence by Jumoke Verissimo is a good read.
(Adesewa is an avid reader of African literature and can be reached on Twitter @dsndsw.)