Year of Publication: 2011
Kwakye’s Eyes of the Slain Woman explore in every angle one of the most important faculties of mankind – the heart – often putting this special faculty to test and the result thereof: emanating from the choice(s) we make in life.
Kwakye, who has written three novels to date and all having scooped important prizes, make a departure with his latest book; not in the ranks of novels but a collection of three novellas and each one of them well–connected. It is this kind of inter–connectedness that makes the stories interesting to read.
In Echoes of Hungry Blood, Solo, is on the verge of ‘conquer[ing] death’ (p9) as he is presented with a challenge that will ultimately put the ethics of his profession to test. In order to conquer the final battle of death, Solo ought to first deal with its agents – the ‘Agents of destruction’. (p9) Solo is a medical doctor by profession. After four years of lucrative practice in the city he goes to the village to set up a clinic. Upon reflection on the essence of going to medical school, Solo is reminded of his desire to ‘confront death’. (p14) He would find the village the best place to set out his ambition: ‘Life was more fully present there and perhaps, on account of that, death would retreat’. (p15)
On account of his selfless deeds, the people of the village honoured him with a parrot – Solo the parrot – which would form an integral part of – Solo the Human being; a spiritual bond of a sort. One day, Solo receives a message from his assistant, Momo, to come to the clinic on the pretext of an emergency case. Upon arrival, he realises that the man-turned-patient happens to be Appiah, who has once murdered his in-laws. ‘How could he save the life of a man who’d murdered his in laws and then attempted to murder him?’ (p26)
Later on, Dankwa, Appiah’s brother would emerge and commit one of the most atrocious crimes against Solo. When Dankwa is presented as a patient in his clinic, Solo’s tenacity to defeat death is palpable: ‘And never in Solo’s life did he want to heal anyone as strongly as he wanted to heal the man lying in front of him’. (p79)
Indeed, Kwakye has an unusual skill at sustaining the reader’s interest and for how he does that remains a mystery to me. In the second novella, The Last Next, Kwakye changes the gear – rapidly, perhaps to accelerate the impetus of suspense; a coherent plot achieved in the end. When the story begins, we are in the court room; the euphoria often associated with court cases is vividly evident throughout the narrative. Solo appears in court. The court is not a familiar place to him. He has only witnessed the courtroom on the television. Standing in defence is Solo’s father, Pa, who is expected to rebut the prosecutor’s ‘burden of production’. (p87) The prosecutor is Michael Dartey, the ‘government’s best’ trained to send people to prison. The number of people gathered in the gallery number about thirty. Each one of them has a taste – ‘catharsis, sating of the primordial love for bloodletting.’(p84) The referee to regulate proceedings is Judge Ibrahim Musa. The case: ‘Solo stands on trial for the murder of his wife.’(p84) As proceedings speed on, the tension in the courtroom ascends and of course, there is drama. The defence council prey on words: ‘manslaughter rather than murder, jail sentence rather than death.’ (p88) And there are surprises too. Also, Solo the parrot appears and disappears. Ultimately, the court’s ruling is passed. Will the ruling be in favour of or against Solo? Whatever the outcome is, Solo’s prayer is that the ‘time will never come when the word [Last Next] would be yelled out announcing his own arrived death’. (p97)
In the last novella, Eyes of the Slain Woman, Kwakye takes us into a whole new realm. In this realm, we encounter various themes: widowhood, distress, murder, forgiveness, dreams. Ma Ebo, widowed, is confronted with a dream: ‘In the beginning her eyes were eyes and she could see clearly. And then they turned into two massive loaves of bread upon which many gathered to feast – a kind of grand banquet in which she only participated as an observer.’ (p161)
In other to unravel this dream, Ma Ebo has confronted so many people ‘but neither sages nor pastors offered satisfying counsel’. (p161) The last resort available to her is Pa Addo, her dead husband’s friend. Her meetings with Pa Addo will later unravel the mystery behind the dream.
Unlike the first two novellas which were tightly, well – plotted, Eyes of the Slain Woman seems to fall short of this. For instance, the meetings between Ma Ebo and Pa Addo and the ensuring conversations took so long a time before the story was resolved. Nevertheless, that would not spoil the joy I got from reading this book. When I finished reading Kwakye’s Eyes of the Slain Woman, I closed my eyes and in my mind’s eye envisaged if my eyes had turned into huge loaves of bread upon which many feasted.