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Salvation Colony

Monday 12 October 2009, author(s)-editor(s) Linus Asong

Dennis Nunqam Ndendemajem, the spectral social misfit of No Way To Die, having failed to die by suicide, is pursued by the hatred of friends and family relations. He seeks refuge in The Salvation Colony of the Angels of Limbo Church of Africa - a veritable paradise for all whom society has sidelined and whom chance or choice have led thereto. Refuge Dennis finds at the Salvation Colony, thanks to the kindly founding spiritual and material patron, the highly reputable but extremely devilish Pastor Sixtus Shrapnell, fondly referred to as Our Father. At the Colony, though completely dehumanized, Dennis maintains self-value and something to live for in life - God. In dispensing so completely and successfully with any authorial presence in this extremely rare but deeply psychological novel, Asong pushes the art of African fiction to a great new height. The novel shows his intellectual and perhaps formal vortex. His iridescent flushes of exquisite know-how in art, philosophy and psychology make the work worth a thinker’s time.

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ISBN 9789956558940 | 216 pages | 203 x 127 mm | 2009 | Langaa RPCIG, Cameroon | Paperback

1 Review

  • Salvation Colony 12 March 2010 12:43, author(s)-editor(s) Ntangnyui Patrick Tata (Lecturer of Literature, GHS Santa, Cameroon)

    A few years ago we were witnesses of the spectacle: three novels and a joke book spewed from the pen of the same creative genius. Many have hardly digested those, and yet Asong is already here with another surprise for the reading public. This time Asong is beating his own past in Salvation Colony, a novel with genuine charm, brisk perspicacity, mature humour and graceful urbanity. It scintillates with effusions of compact suggestions that brusquely crowd out linear and simplistic interpretations.

    For those who have read No Way To Die, this sequel would be familiar in the multiple point of view and in most character names. The sonal blare or pride in Doctor Maximillian Essemo Aleukwinchaa, and the irritating naivety that is quintessential to Manda Chabeule are certainly still here. Cosmas Mfetebeunu is new and so is Istromo Ngiawa: Master Planner, with whom he knots a bond of Machiavellian implacability in journalistic inquisitiveness. The opening mood of the novel, however, is the Dostoyevskan projection in livid glare of the gnawing grate of crime’s unremitting backlash. Dennis Nunqam Ndendemajem, the spectral social misfit of No Way to Die, having failed to die by suicide, is pursued by the hatred of friends and family relations. He seeks refuge in the Salvation Colony of the Angels of Limbo Church of Africa. Abbreiated ALCA, Salvation Colony, set-up is a veritable paradise for all whom society has sidelined and whom chance or choice have led thereto.

    Dennis is in passion to meet his wife or two children. Cosmas’ pressure and the fact that he has to make a crusade and other arrangement in the area permit him to make a resigned attempt to meet them. First he would see the children at the Government Primary School. After much insistence on Dennis’ part, the Head Master sends for the children. On seeing Dennis the children scream out so convulsively that they have to be taken away. His attempt to see Manda too fails because she seals herself up in their house

    And would not respond to him. An erstwhile friendly neighbour condescends to inform Dennis that his neighbour had been hatefully intolerable to all.

    A transformed man, Dennis is unruffled and keeps to his prearranged programme. He visits the diplomat Elken Moore of the American Cultural Affairs Office to make arrangements for his Art Exhibition and moves on to attempt to collect his writings and drawings from Dr. Essemo. The doctor is coldly contemptuous and offhandedly tells him that all that was his had been destroyed. Dennis is for his part unshaken and becomes the butt of the doctor’s threat and of his friend Dr. William Eshuonti’s admiration when he closely aligns wise expressions with biblical quotations. As Dennis returns to the Colony, he knows that there are very powerful forces against all that he set out to achieve in his village and town.

    It is at this point that PART TWO of the novel, that brash conflictual gusto crashes in. In the fray is the force of venal journalism pitted against the Colony. It innocently starts with the desire of Cosmas to save his brother-in-law, Dennis, from the thrall of the Colony. Cosmas and his brother in cloth, Istroo Ngiawa, know that bizarre crime pays high in journalistic reporting and that the effect is the same, whether the crime is fictive or real. The found a newspaper THE NAKED TRUTH and by clever insinuations they make Salvation Colony a subject for public talk and malice. By a stroke of vicious luck, the Colony turns out to have been founded on stinking rot. While the details are still only suspect, the Catholic Mission sides with the press against the Colony. Soon, apparently mysterious pregnancy of the Reverend Sister Angella O’Reilly. This is soon compounded by the death of a Reverend Father for whom the bishop refuses autopsy and the secret complot of the clergy to evacuate the Reverend Sister . The Police is tipped to intercept her emigration but despite the close surveillance on her, she is found dead. Luck smiles in surprising brilliance on the publishers of THE NAKED TRUTH when their endeavours to tie up the O’Reilly scandal with the founder of Salvation Colony comes to fruition.

    On the suspected date of her impregnation, Sister O’Reilly had been t the dentistry. The maverick founder of the Colony had been there too. Unknown to his subjects and most of the public, the pastor was an expert dental doctor who occasionally assisted the dentist in complicated cases or otherwise. That Shrapnell raped women whom he anaesthesised and that he was a counterfeiter were hidden facts tat when brought to the fore completed the chain of possibilities. No longer able to conceal the truth, Shrapnell attempts to kill himself and his twelve closest helpers. The twelve overpower him and he is forced to die alone but they would not let the Colony die because they all agree that they had all found both God and solace.

    In this web of the magic of art, Asong enfolds an anthology of the best in religion, but undercuts and topples the whole structure into a mire of human frailty. The con-conformism is not naïve but has substance and profundity that is underscored in the author’s ranging sweeps of penetration on human psychology, art, philosophy and religion. Yet, the profundity is not cloggy;the plasma of humour greases it sufficiently, a sure refuge of the iconoclastic mind. Humour clinches realism in the work and confirms Asong as a master of the human dilemma of Laughter and Tears.

    In Salvation Colony Asong takes no sides, aware, as T.S. Eliot notes somewhere that “humankind cannot bear much truth”. When at the end of the work Dennis persists at the Colony that has been morally dazed by the shameful exposition and death of Shrapnell, we can almost hear the author in Mark Twain’s tongue-in-cheek thrust: “Don’t part with your illusions” or see him nodding to S.N. Behrman’s claim: Life is sad… but I think it is gallant to pretend it isn’t.” The work is a search for meaning, an author’s laborious grovel in the rubble in search for human faith. At the end of the all-engrossing novel the author

    And the reader are still at the rubble heap on all fours.

    I guess the work indeed exposes the colour of the naked truth of multi-dimentional shades, distracting and tantalizing. The work is perhaps the truest echo of Asong’s intellectual depth and spread so far. A man for all, a work for all – the highbrow intellectual and refined critic, the man in the street, the preacher and his audience, the believer and the atheist, the dreamer and the reformer will find a message to their taste.

    That said, it has to be mentioned that the novel strikes a few disturbing chords mainly thematic and pphilosophical. In his famous Preface to Shakespeare Dr. Samuel Johnson drew attention to the chink in the armour of the great Shakespeare – a quibble. He noted that “a quibble was the fatal Cleopatra for which he lost the whole world and was content to lose it.” Asong is to be faulted not for quibbles but for the lack of seriousness in the handling of extremely serious matters. Whatever his grievances with the churches, one notices how he treats with absolute levity some of the most delicate doctrinal or theological issues such as racism and celibacy among the clergy, and “the Second Coming” and the behaviour of the Catholic hierarchy in a work fraught with important lessons for humanity. These and many are, however, problems of the coil rather than the core of the book which can always be defended on literary and artistic grounds.