Some books hand me the license to question everything, even the life inside me and the lives of others too. Others leave layers of question that slowly evaporates as more pages make a revelation. Some books are just empty, and they need to be read as such. I have seen the truth in fiction and the fiction of truth. But the belief that fiction is the truth in the lie triumphs.

Like my siblings, I know these books when I see them. They come to me one by one in different times bearing a touch of completeness and then they disappear in my hands into my soul. They are familiar. I touch them in their abstracts. They touch my body through my soul. They always possess illumination and rebirth.

I do not always know how I find these books, but when I do they seem to possess an uncanny authority over my life. But they also possess a refined blessing—one that recycles my journey unto life in positive ways.

In short, books baptize me. They shower me with promise. They give me gifts. At some point, they change my life. They make me restless. They force me to look at life through an uncommon lens—in a way that few people would understand.

Books, only books become my only conversation. My only arguments. My only solace and my dearest companion.

I remember the feeling that washed over me after reading Edwidge’s Create Dangerously. It spread in tiny waves—Happiness. Joy. Love. Tears. Gloom. I remember the healing, the sighs, and the showered emotion that left me in struggled tears. I remember walking around in a trance-like state, hypnotized, hardly conscious of my steps. As though in a hurry to replace a lost osculation, I kept kissing the back cover again and again as though this were the only thing that was left for me to do.

I can still imagine that gloomy face that stared back at me in my broken mirror. Mine. I become, figuratively awakened and glad, somehow sad. That day, I stayed back at home. I decided not to speak to anyone as though speaking to anyone would take away all that sanctity and secret that were kept in my possession.

Books can sometimes be like people you have not seen for a long time. They seem to embrace you off-guard even if you try not to submit your heart to them, even if you prepare yourself, telling yourself that this is just a story. You will fail. Sooner or later, you will forget and allow them to take your hands. Allow them to guide you, among other characters, to faraway places where only the color of your face and other faces exist, a place where the color of memories do not fade, where the color of emotion stays.

The Fault in our Stars had me thinking about my heart, emptiness, about song of sorrow, about joy.

A Million Little Pieces filled me with tons of holes and stitches of wounds that were heavily preserved in a visible place where I could get to see them and imagine them. I was awed.

Krik Krak had me thinking about love, smiling kids, transatlantic slave trade, love lost, boko haram, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, famished road, hungry earth.

Clinical blues had me thinking about my first love, my first lust, broken hearts, joy, kisses, smiling faces, furtive glances, and greatness.

As I walked pass the remaining 50 pages of Azar’s Reading Lolita in Tehran some days back, I could feel my eyes transforming into red again, the colour of crimson.

Reading Lolita in Tehran is fresh and the most provocative memoir ever. I was filled with misplaced joy and helplessness and guilt at the same time as I read the lives of women I couldn’t do anything to help, but found their voice intensely exciting. Hope seems to fade against hope and they fall flat in my tears. I close the book and stare at the smiling face of the author; pure and serene. I was consoled.

Why do I feel that Things Fall Apart is for me? Why does my sister think that Adichie wrote Purple Hibiscus to haunt her but travel with it wherever she goes to? Why do I feel so whole with these books I have mentioned and pot-empty with others? Is this about the mind or this is just a curious appetite of inner questions? A kind of complex emotional balance or balanced emotional complex. The best fiction always forced us to question what we took for granted. It questioned tradition and expectation when they seem too immutable.



Post image by Dean Hochman via Flickr

About the Author:

Portrait - BasitBasit Jamiu stories have appeared in Kalahari Review, Brittle Paper, Magunga, TheNukan Niche and others.


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I'm finishing up a phd at Duke University where I study African novels, which I believe are some of the loveliest things ever written. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

2 Responses to “Confessions of a Booklover | By Basit Jamiu” Subscribe

  1. wazani ijarafu 2016/02/01 at 3:56 am #

    your words are subtle yet profound. ride on

  2. Amina 2016/03/29 at 3:45 am #

    dis is a very great one!I really love DAT…..kudos to you Basit.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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