The Bottom of Another Tale: A Review

The Bottom of Another Tale is a veritable collection of twenty-six stories. Most are confident and moving, with unique and original characters, and a balance of character and plot. Most are intense and zesty, neatly wrought servings with different textures and flavours. It is a carefully considered collection.

The first story, ‘The River’s Testament’, presents a clash between tradition and modernity and plays on the incongruousness of mythical explanations of natural phenomena in the face of modern science. The narrator, Tombo, constantly pits, tongue-in-cheek, the traditions of the village of Bamtaje against rational explanations. At Bamtaje, the moon is a calabash, the full moon is the divine bottom of the calabash, the half-moon one cheek of the bottom of the calabash, and the changing phases are ‘the various positions of the Almighty drinking from the vastness of the skies’ (p 9).

The narrator chides the people of Bamtaje for such explanations, calls them nonsense, and explains that traditions ‘were old pieces of caution and actions that had been created for specific events’ but ‘ignorant people continued them even when the importance had long faded’ (p 9).

Tombo is a graduate serving his nation as a Corps member in the North of the country, under a government scheme aimed at uniting people of all tribes. He teaches English and Literature to students who are not able to communicate in English. When he arrives at the village, he cannot endure the water from the well and survives on bottled water, but the economy of his pocket forces him to downsize to sachet water, then to well water. Now he survives on river water.

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