Martin Egblewogbe is the co-founder of the Writers Project of Ghana. He is also an editor with the “Ghanaian Book Review”. Martin writes mainly short stories and poetry. He is the author of the short story collection, Mr Happy and the Hammer of God.
Geosi Reads: The first time I came across your name was at the bookshop. How many of writing years did it take you to get ‘Mr Happy and the Hammer of God’ into the bookshops?
Martin Egblewogbe: The stories included in the collection were written between 1999 and 2008. They were selected from scores of others and put together because they had more or less the same ‘colour’. At the extremes, ‘Down Wind’ was written in 1999, and ‘To-morrow’ in 2008.
Geosi Reads: What struck me about your book was the title. If I may ask, who is Mr Happy and who or what is the Hammer of God?
Martin Egblewogbe: The short answer is that Dervi is Mr Happy and the hunchback is the Hammer of God. The long answer lies in metaphor.
Geosi Reads: Some writers have argued about how difficult it is to write a short story as compared to a novel. In your view, are short stories difficult to write?
Martin Egblewogbe: I guess it depends on the genre of the short story or novel, the style of writing, and the scope of the story. For example, ‘Jjork’ was difficult to write. It was originally three to four times the current length, and included Jjork in ‘real life’ — Jjork as appears in the published version of ‘Jjork’ is a mental construct of the ‘real-life’ Jjork. Reducing the story to its present form took innumerable cuts and re-writes. Looking back though, I think the original version was more fun.
Perhaps, this will answer the question from my perspective: I have completed less than five, perhaps three, full-length (50,000 word +) novels, whereas I probably have over a hundred short stories.
Geosi reads: You first self-published Mr Happy and the Hammer of God. Why?
Martin Egblewogbe: I had an idea to deliver low-cost books to a wide local audience, and wanted to do a proof-of-concept. It didn’t work, probably because I was unable to dedicate sufficient time to the process.
Geosi Reads: One reviewer, Kinna of Kinna Reads in her review said of you, ‘I find his portrayal of women or his female characters problematic’. Is your portrayal of women indeed problematic?
Martin Egblewogbe: I don’t know what makes the portrayal of female characters in my work ‘problematic’. Perhaps, the portrayal is unrealistic? But I cannot tell, really.
Geosi Reads: In one of your stories titled ‘Pharmaceutical Intervention’, you highlighted on the theme of abortion. What is it about abortion you wanted to get across to the reader?
Martin Egblewogbe: The actual question is not about abortion, really. As with some of the stories in the book, it is about the terrible dilemma of certain types of exchange, purchase: an abortion to maintain the status quo? what does a person need to exchange for happiness? For life?
Geosi Reads: In ‘To-morrow’ a man is fed-up with life and in ‘Twilight’ another man is facing death. Two key words come to mind considering these stories and thus ‘life’ and ‘death’. Can you throw lights on these two important words?
Martin Egblewogbe: Shall we play with the words a bit? In ‘To-morrow’ a man kills himself and and in ‘Twilight’ a man is dying, so in ‘To-morrow’ a man dies and in ‘Twilight’ a man dies. So there’s just one word. However, since there cannot be death without life, we must add that word as well. But actually, life & death are like the opposite sides of a coin. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have one word that represented the ‘coin’, with life on one side, and death on the other? I would have used that word instead.
Geosi Reads: How did you arrive at choosing ‘Mr Happy and the Hammer of God’ as the title of the book and why not any of the other stories?
Martin Egblewogbe: I thought that the story ‘Mr Happy &C’ captured the thematic leaning of all the other stories.
Geosi Reads: Ayebia has republished your book under a more established and traditional publishing house. Are you optimistic about a wider readership?
Martin Egblewogbe: Yes. And at this time I must acknowledge with thanks the efforts of Kinna Likimani and Ama Ata Aidoo who brought the book to the attention of the publisher.
Geosi Reads: You are a leading member of the Ghana Poetry Project. Has the aim for which the project was established been achieved?
Martin Egblewogbe: The Ghana Poetry Project is now the Writers Project of Ghana, and it is very much a work in progress. Quite a bit has been achieved, and we look forward to this year with great optimism as we roll out more programming.