In Praise of Death: A Review of Smithereens of Death by Olubunmi Familoni

“Familoni’s prose is dense. It is unlike the short sentences favoured in contemporary fiction, due to the influence of creative writing pamphlets. His sentences are garnished with dark humour reminiscent of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. At some point, every line is an experiment in how extreme the depiction of an event can be. Every page is a testament to the author’s daring and his willingness to sometimes risk incomprehensibility by writing circumlocutory sentences. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it does not. In ‘A Blackness Like This’ (p 103), the story begins with this paragraph:

“The abrupt gory separation of our parents, of which no finger could be laid on its origin and for which no reason was given, signalled, for me and my elder brother, the end of our milk-and-honey childhood and the commencement of miles of multiple miseries as, carted off to a ‘Home’ for abandoned little boys by our mother in an incomprehensible act of connubial vengefulness, we were thrust into an early similitude of violent manhood” [italics added].

Still, there are long sentences which enthral and reveal a character in such a way that nothing would have done better. In ‘A Master of Himself’ (p 93) we read this description:

“They drank in silence, for a while. It was during this their brief silence that I began to pay attention to their looks: the spokesman one was dressed in that near-shabby state of a person whose house was nearby and had only come to walk his friend halfway up the street in farewell; the threadbare Google t-shirt that stretched into amoebic shapelessness on him hung above elderly jeans whose blue had been washed down to white in front and a very pale sky-blue in other places, and his rubber Dunlop slippers only confirmed the proximity of residence, ….”

In Smithereens of Death, you will meet the illogical and absurd, and the mysterious and incomprehensible, all weaved into a functional mat by humour, and laughter – but it is the laughter of a mad man laughing at his own nakedness. The prose is rich, stylistic – Familoniesque, but the stories end too soon. One feels the author should have dug a little deeper, moulded a little more. Many blossoming stories, with the potential to be great are strangled and killed, and so Smithereens of Death reads like a file of vignettes and snapshots, like the incomplete lives it tries to map.


Read the entire review here

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