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Stories from Abakwa

2007, author(s)-editor(s) Francis B. Nyamnjoh

Childhood and growing up in Mimboland, Cameroon are infused with fascinating stories and adventures. Discover life in Abakwa with Tom and his friend, as they are chased through an orchard for secretly harvesting avocadoes and mangoes. Smile as Mathias Chi’s overloaded canoe almost loses balance. Shiver as Roland runs through the dark streets and bleeding corridors of Mvog Mvog. And cry when Big Brother discovers how his siblings suffered when he was away at school. What happens to Esther when she finds the courage to make an announcement at the Abakwa Mountain Foot Radio Station about her husband’s disappearance? Will Prudencia and Collette kill or give life? How does Prisca Lum deal with her dwarf husband? Some characters will remind you of people you know - or even of yourself. Drum beats and church bells, thunder and lightning, princes and princesses, visions and deceptions fill the pages. Discover your favorite stories waiting to be told and retold, again and again.

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ISBN 9789956558001 | 148 pages | 203 x 127 mm | 2007 | Langaa RPCIG, Cameroon | Paperback

5 Book Reviews

  • Book Review: "Stories From Abakwa" 25 May 2009 21:09, author(s)-editor(s) Kangsen Feka Wakai

    When Cameroon sells itself in the realm of public opinion, at home and abroad, it is sold as a bilingual, highly literate, naturally endowed, ethnically diverse, democratic and peaceful country. That is not the whole truth. 
    Cameroon is in fact a bilingual country endowed with natural resources; it is culturally diverse and boasts a highly literate, albeit unemployed and underemployed, adult population. However, the truth is that Cameroon is far from being as united, democratic and the haven of peace its leaders would want Cameroonians and the world to believe. Plainly speaking, it is not.

    Stories From Abakwa, a collection of short stories by English speaking Cameroonian author, Francis B. Nyamnjoh is a literary vignette that captures the everyday life of ordinary Mimbolanders [Cameroonians]; their aspirations, desires, fears, sounds, mores, strengths, failures, vulnerabilities, and triumphs-not the utopian creation of some marketing guru.

    In this collection, Nyamnjoh, reminiscent of Congolese painter J’aime Cheri Samba, transforms his writer’s pad into a tableau on which each story like crayons create sardonic pastels of Mimboland [Cameroon] reality. 

    In any case, our entry into Nyamnjoh’s Mimboland is via Prupranpang, where Freeboy Etuge, a non-indigene betrays the trust of his host community by engineering a plot against them. After a war is fought and the entire royal lineage wiped out, Freeboy is enthroned as reigning monarch in Prupranpang by his allies, the conquering Esuangsuans.

    Strange Stranger is a tale of adultery, lust, palm-wine, treachery and violence. But it is more than that. At its best, it plays out like an allegorical tragedy of post-colonial African societies where the blood of goodwill continues to nourish the barren fields of treachery.  In fact, it is just one amongst many metaphorical portraits the author sketches to illustrate the frailty of Mimbolanders, and humans in general.  
    Perhaps the charm of this collection lie in the fact that no story or character makes any attempt to proselytize to the reader about the obvious. The characters emerge as flawed as the values they are compelled to abide by. Yet, others possess strength only comparable to the passion that drives them. 

    The power in these tales lies in Nyamnjoh’s ability to equip his characters with humor and pathos that are contagious.The stories have a dynamism and genuineness that are commendable.

    Nyamnjoh uses this ability in Almost Too Late To Get DrunkThunder No Di Lie andNight Rocking amongst others to capture the palm-wine drinking, dark-alley running, spouse beating, mischief, beer-drinking, prostituting, laughter, sadness, joy, magic, tragedy, and infinite rhythm of post-colonial Africa. 

    These stories are more than about a given space captured within the frame of a given time. These stories are about the inclinations, motivations, conflicts, fears and doubts of individuals in a society in transition. Even though, a few of these stories could be slighted for unjustifiable instances of abruptness, they are more than about a place. In a nutshell, they are about people in very human situations; hence their universality.  

    The toast of the collection, Thoughts In Limbo is about a promising student who sees his future disintegrate before his eyes after he impregnates a classmate. They are both expelled from the school they attend as punishment for their act of fornication. But his situation is made worse when the girl’s father throws him in jail. 

    The narrative begins in jail and the reader is slowly pulled into the throbbing heart, moving pulse, disappearing dreams, and dashed hopes of a teenager.Peruvian Novelist, Mario Vargas Llosa has argued that the writer doesn’t choose his themes; they choose him.
    In these stories, Nyamnjoh has created a world he knows, but in his own terms. Instead of Cameroon, there is Mimboland, a country in a drunken stupor. Llosa, in his dictum on fiction [Letters to a Young Novelist], poses a very pertinent question: 

    What is the origin of this early inclination, the source of literary vocation, for inventing beings and stories? Llosa is convinced the reason is rebellion.’ Those who immerse themselves in the lucubration of lives different from their own demonstrate indirectly their rejection and criticism of life as it is, of the world, and manifest their desire to substitute for it the creations of their imagination and dreams.’

    Stories from Abakwa, with its colorful characters, tender moments, and hyperbolic plots demonstrates Llosa’s observation about the creative instinct.These stories are the author’s rebellion, his questioning of his reality, his Cameroonian reality. Nyamnjoh has offered us well-crafted tales that give a generous insight into a people. Especially because they unfold without limiting them to those lives and experiences that have inspired the author’s rebellion. 

  • Stories from Abakwa - A Masterpiece in Linguistic Engineering (Book Review) 26 May 2009 00:35, author(s)-editor(s) By Peter Vakunta

    Francis B. Nyamnjoh’s Stories from Abakwa is a remarkable depiction of the socio-economico-political realities of Mimboland aka Cameroon. The writer does more than re-write the events that characterize the day-to-day lives of the inhabitants of this terrestrial limbo. What strikes the reader the most in this anthology of short stories is the linguistic engineering that the author adeptly avails himself of. Camfranglais— the mumbo-jumbo that not only baffles Fineboy Ayuk but leads to his unanticipated demise, is the hallmark of the code-switching that Nyamnjoh employs as a narartive technique in the collection.

    Code-switching is perhaps one of the most effective strategies of linguistic appropriation at the disposal of this Cameroonian writer. It enables him to make the inter-language (third code) bear the burden of an experience for which terms and experiences in the inherited language do not seem appropriate. Code-switching occurs when the Empires writes back, as Ashcroft et al. would have it. By directly inscribing Cameroon Pidgin English into his text Nyamnjoh succeeds in showing that the socio- economic dichotomies created by colonialism have been retained in postcolonial Cameroon, for the Pidginized form of a language is often a marker of social status.

    Throughtout the narrative, the reader enjoys not only the narrator’s virtuosity in fictional narrative but also his verve at word-smiting. All in all, Stories from Abakwa is a replica of the travails of life well known to Cameroonians.

  • Francis Nyamnjoh’s "Stories from Abakwa" Seen Through the Eyes of a Teenage Student in Abakwa 26 May 2009 00:37, author(s)-editor(s) by Anye-Nkwenti, 15 Year Old Form Five Student

    Stories from Abakwa is a collection of stories centred on happenings in the town of Abakwa and its peripheries. These stories reflect past experiences in our lives or issues plaguing or society today. Summarily, these issues reveal deceit (in cases where it is actually applied and almost), corruption, witchcraft, alcoholism among youths, polygamy and its ills and remorse (common with youths who have messed up their lives and are now paying the price).

    The first is the story of Freeboy Etuge entitled ‘Strange Stranger’. This story describes the stranger Freeboy who is from Mimboland but has however integrated himself well into the society of Pruprangprang. Though seen to be lazy, Freeboy is also a fascinating story-teller among the villagers who always find time to entertain themselves with his stories which mostly talk of the white man whom the people knew very little about. Freeboy, described as being very handsome is admired by the other women in the village and envied by the other men. His excessive drinking of raffia wine gives him the ‘Dutch Courage’ he needs to declare his emotions to the woman he fancies who usually accepts his proposal for an affair. However he manages to maintain the fact that no actual proof is ever established of something of the sort ever going on.

    This story unfolds the scandal after Freeboy’s marriage in which the hunter prince is caught in bed with his wife. However, justice fails to take its right course as his father being the chief, silences the whole matter. Gripped with this humiliation, Freeboy decides to jeopardise the prince’s marriage with the daughter of the chief of Esuangsua. He goes to her hut and declares his love for her and accuses her of not reciprocating it and seeing her luck in the remarkably handsome man that declares his love before her, she falls for him as he expected and soon they are in bed. Afterwards, he asks her to keep their affair secret till his plan has been executed. In the course of time the chief’s daughter is declared pregnant and the chief considers this as an insult and executes both the chief and the hunter prince. He then makes it known that the person who marries his daughter automatically becomes the chief of Pruprangprang and so as we have it Freeboy is installed as the controversial chief of Pruprangprang within the next two weeks.

    ‘Man-Pass-Man’ sees the protagonist in the story hold the title as his nickname. This he gets from his constant evasion of taxes. He is presented at the scene of the burial of Pa’a Tax Collecta by a friend of his son. In a prologue we are told of Man-Pass-Man’s prolific drinking habit and how his son can’t continue his education to college because his fees have apparently become his father’s brewery fares. He has also driven away his wife as he constantly beat her when she complained about anything. So at the burial Man-Pass-Man engages in a conversation with Massa Mantrouble about the ill luck that has fallen upon him as a result of this death. In this conversation he tries to insist on his receiving a tax ticket enabling him to get a refund but he is told that will have to be verified in the records first. He argues saying that Pa’a Tax Collecta was an illiterate but is told, that there are literate people in charge of doing that in their community and his son happens to be that person. Furthermore, he is told that the book doesn’t lie and if it did so then the white man would have abandoned the art of writing a long time ago. Unwillingly and boiling with rage he agrees to this theory but at the same time tries not show how he feel, for deep inside he knows he almost had him.

    ‘Small nobi sick’ is the third story in this novel. The direct translation tells us that someone’s smallness in size is not a fault. In this text however it goes a long way to mean that one’s size doesn’t guarantee strength as demonstrated by yet another consummate drinker of raffia wine, whose wife is fed up with his drinking habits and laziness and so has no choice but to adopt the ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ principle. Therefore Ngwa finds himself at the receiving end of his wife’s manly rage during the first five years of their marriage. Often, passers by would go to his house when they heard wails and the alleged sound of a drum only to discover that it was Ngwa who was being beaten. One day he complains to his friend Paul about his wife. He says his situation only continues because he is not as strong as Paul and so the midst of his misery they come up with a plan. Ngwa is to go home that night and start a fight with his wife and then turn of the lamp. Paul will slip into the house in the darkness and teach Ngwa’s wife a lesson. And so Ngwa comes home late at night and finds his wife waiting for him. He doesn’t need to start a fight as it is only a matter of minutes that his wife jumps on him struggling to rip him into pieces. Pretending to lose stability, Ngwa walks towards the lamp and throws it at her and soon the whole room is very dark and so he slips into a quiet corner. Paul gets into the house beats Ngwa’s wife almost to the point of death. He leaves and Ngwa comes beside his wife who is now begging for mercy. This signals the end of Ngwa’s misery as the next day, his wife can be seen kneeling in front of him as they both revise the domestic rules of behaviour, telling her never to take his leniency for a weakness and reminds her, that ‘Small nobi sick’.

    The fourth story ‘Man-no- rest’ talks about the tragic death of a trader called John Fru Aboringong. He is a trader who earned the nickname Man-no-rest because he is always busy with his business in the market square, other villages or hamlets. He also had the inscription ‘Man-no-rest’ at the back of his Suzuki-100. He had a wife from the village of Sixtoes a place as civically backward as one can imagine. Even pidgin English which every blockhead could speak and understand was too much of an innovation for them. As a trader, John tried to minimise all expenditures which always made life for his wife very frugal and simple as possible. When she tried to complain, it was a good beating that answered her. One day on her way from the stream she discovers a bundle of money (50000 MIM Dollars) wrapped up carefully in a bundle unmistakably looking like her husband’s. Acknowledging the fact that it would look strange for her to have picked up that huge sum of money she decides to keep 35000 MIM Dollars and present 15000 to he husband. On arrival her husband complains of losing 50000 MIM dollars. She shows him the 35000 MIM dollars which he seizes from her saying that it would be used for business. She protests saying she deserves a share in the money but ends up on the receiving end of a good beating. Her husband then climbs on his Suzuki and takes off. When he does not return after a day, she is not worried still being very angry about what he did. But on the third day she began to grow very worried and by the sixth day she decided to go and announce on the radio station. Another embarrassing scene sees her engage in an announcement of her husband’s disappearance in very rudimentary Pidgin English which makes her the laughing stock of the day at the radio station. On the sixth day of her husband’s absence, she goes to the police station where after an enquiry they all go to the bar where it is suspected he was seen last. They follow the track he took when he left the place, only to find his skeletons down a cliff and his Suzuki caption ‘Man-No-Rest’. Evidently, he had been drunk and fell off the cliff. This should ring a bell as to how alarming deaths due to alcoholism have become these days.

    The next story ‘Almost too late to get drunk’ is told by an unfortunate victim of peer pressure and a drunken state tells pressure. On Christmas Eve he decides to go and get his first taste of beer to justify whether it soothes one’s problems as his friends had claimed. He gets three beers at once and his drinking soon not only draws attention but a quarrel with another man who provokes him saying he drinks as though he is a herdsman who has been chasing cattle. Naturally as he is now drunk a fight breaks off in which he has his adversary well beaten much to the enthusiasm of the others present in the bar. Later on he convinces a girl to have a drink with him and the next morning he finds the girl naked in his bed. He tries to inquire as to how she managed to find herself there but she keeps asking for her money saying that is what they had agreed on. Seeing her unwilling to give more answers he beats her up and she calls the police. Unfortunately for him the superintendent is the same person he had beaten up. He now finds himself in jail. However one day (during his imprisonment), while labouring in jail, he sees his wife coming out of the house next to the prison. He waves at her but is asked to stop as he is told (much to his dismay), that is the wife of the superintendent and that they had gotten married last Christmas.

    For those who believe in witchcraft ‘Thunder no di lie’ is that when you curse someone without a reason it will fall back on you. An example is told of John Tsi who goes to Elakgan to see a witchdoctor. He explains his situation saying he wants the witchdoctor to kill a young man who has stolen a job opportunity from him with lightning. The herbalist tells him the man has not done anything to him but John Tsi insists and so his wish is granted and so he goes home and confides in his wife who is happy with the line of action. When John hears the sound of thunder a sudden excitement fills him. He goes out to check if this is true. Meanwhile his enemy has just narrowly escaped his fate. John goes out and it is only a matter of minutes before he is struck by lightning. As the witchdoctor said, ‘Thunder no di lie’.

    The next story ‘The surprise’ talks of the wickedness of the storyteller’s stepmother Kang. He comes home only to discover that his mother has been driven away from home by her husband, his father under the influence of Kang. Filled with rage, he beats up his stepmother and is driven from the house to go and meet his mother by his father where he spends time comforting her. She soon falls sick and is later convinced by her son to go to the hospital. I imagine is what polygamy has for any interested candidate.

    ‘The Prince’s Bills’ talks about 2 victims of a prince and his money scandals. He meets Fineboy Ayuk an old man who had a boat he used to carry people across the river. When Fineboy hears the man’s name is Mathias Chi, he considers him his god as Chi is the name of his god and so Chi gives him a ride because of this. Chi soon becomes interested in his daughter Una and soon they get married and departed for Small London leaving Fineboy with a big fortune. Because of the war in Abakwa Fineboy decides to take his money and go away perhaps to Small London where he can join his daughter and son in law. However he is stopped by policemen on the way and it is discovered the money he had was counterfeit. He is taken to prison where he is later joined by his daughter who had also been caught shopping with the fake money. In my opinion this sort of corruption is very much prevalent in our African society.

    The 9th story ‘Thoughts in Limbo’ is the story of the dismissal and imprisonment of an unfortunate boy because of a scandal. He was taught a lesson by leaving his former girlfriend Collette who, not being happy with this decides to give his life a turn for the worst. She tells the principal the true story (when Prudencia, the storyteller’s girlfriend is declared pregnant by the doctor who came to their school to give the girls a check-up), saying that she had actually spent the 10 days of the author’s suspension with him under the pretext that he was ill and had to leave school and so is obviously responsible for the pregnancy. She points to the fact that both of them returning on the same day was a strange coincidence. Consequently they are both dismissed and Prudencia’s husband is locked up in prison.

    ‘Night Rocking’ is another story about witchcraft. Its main content tells us about Roland and his scary encounter with the devil. After he leaves the home of a prostitute and meets a skeleton who asks him to light his cigar. Running away he quickly stops a taxi and enters feeling things couldn’t get any worse. He tells the story to the taxi driver who on turning asks him if what he saw was more frightening than him. Ronald turned to look. It was the devil himself. He jumps out of the car feeling he would rather die on the road than in the hands of the Devil.

    ‘Biscuits’ is a story in which any boy growing up will find a morale. A street hawker of cigarettes and kerosene, he had been taught by his mother to be very honest in his trade. This he obeyed until his sixth birthday when he began to realise he could play tricks on his customers. One day he sells a stick of cigarette which has kerosene on it to someone and it blasts on the persons face. He runs away. Having scammed the person’s money he decides to spend it quickly to avoid questions from his mother, given the memory of the death of his father after she had cursed him when he refused to give her money for household provisions from his salary. So he goes to buy his favourite biscuits from a shop. On his way he is haunted by the ghost of his father who tells him to give back his cheated customer’s money or risk being cursed by his mother like he was.

    The last story, ‘Not Tom not I’ is about two members of a quarter gang Tom and Richard who are definitely far apart in social status. They soon make it a habit of visiting an old man’s orchard where they steal mangoes and avocados. However they are soon caught and after a long pursuit the old man finally gives up. Richard feels sorry for this old man, wanting to tell him that they actually wanted the fruits to please their team mates at the inter quarter match. However who is to tell the old man this is the problem as after this thought he says ‘Not Tom, not I’

    After reading these stories it is most agreeable to asses that we have either learned a thing or two from them or that some of these experiences have either been part of our past or those of friends and relatives as in my opinion they do almost indiscriminately covering a lot of topics and issues that you could fine people discussing about here and there in everyday life.

  • Stories from Abakwa 7 May 2010 21:09, author(s)-editor(s) Daniel Noni Lantum, University of Yaounde I

    Francis Nyamnjoh’s Stories from Abakwa highlights the living experiences of an adventurous youth in the social milieu of an emerging urbanizing society in the Third World.

    As a literary work it is most delightful to behold, and, indeed, after consuming the twelve chapters one easily asks: Why not more? From a moral perspective one senses a thoroughly decadent society and questions whether it is society that is polluted or the author’s sensitivity for decadence. Yet it is that decadence that constitutes the artistry – the salt and pepper of the work – purported to provide excitement and entertainment which are attributes of successful literature – by definition. This work is therefore the literary genre called “Short Story,” usually difficult for students to differentiate from “the novel”.

    The most prominent message that spells the moral tone is the interpretation of human passion in its ventilation as Love, deceit, hatred, struggle, mischief and sorrow, - all related to biological expression of the instinctive sexual pressure and pleasure. Thus wine and women are the stimuli in beer parlours and night clubs moderated by poverty, corrupted police officers – all spelling ghetto and slum life. The plots are easily accessible thanks to their successful weaving to suspend the readers interest to discover the existing remorse and regret for the hidden intentions of the characters aptly chosen socially and psychologically and placed in appropriate environmental milieu to deliver their devilry.

    In a persuasive and forceful style, the author sweeps along the reader like a floating log in mid-stream thanks to the pleasant and artistic mastery of the English language which he spices with pidgin and local dialects to paint a semblance of reality. And the employment and display of elegant metaphors, similes, alliteration, climaxes and anti-climaxes poise the tall man of letters at the summit of his mastery comparable to Chinua Achebe and Ezekiel Mphalélé – the celebrated princes in the literary field. Although in the title

    the society is located a Abakwa quarter of Bamenda city, a sprawling inter-ethnic community in Western Grassfields, the stories cover far beyond to include forestland social life as well as that of the boiling bicultural Yaoundé capital city, and so capture some common stereotypes of the socio-political and psychological experiences, thus completing the national Cameroonian picture.

    There is some lingering call for redemptive evangelization of this society despite the drowning pressure of profaneness from the invasive avalanche of westernization and modernism.
    Concerning applicability, the elegant language power and literary genius displayed in this book, strongly recommends

    Stories from Abakwa as a supporting English literature textbook for the students of the General Certificate of Education (‘O’ Level). As a work of culture, it merits a place in public libraries anywhere.

    Daniel Noni Lantum
    University of Yaounde I

  • Stories from Abakwa 27 June 2010 19:12, author(s)-editor(s) The Post, Cameroon

    Stories from Abakwa, with its colorful characters, tender moments, and hyperbolic plots demonstrates Llosa’s observation about the creative instinct.These stories are the author’s rebellion, his questioning of his reality, his Cameroonian reality. Nyamnjoh has offered us well-crafted tales that give a generous insight into a people. Especially because they unfold without limiting them to those lives and experiences that have inspired the author’s rebellion.

    The Post, Cameroon