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Binyavanga Wainaina has a new essay in Granta‘s latest travel issue. The title of the essay is “Since Everything Was Suddening into a Hurricane.” Binyavanga writes about his experience with stroke and his journey to Nairobi— accompanied by his lover—to patch things up with his father.

We haven’t had an essay from Binyavanga in a long while, so this recent offering is a treat. The opening passages that capture the harrowing experience of a sudden stroke in New York are heart-wrenching.

The two other sections of the essay shift focus to the delicate triangle that ties his devotion to his lover and his anxiety over his father’s attitude towards his same-sex relationship. Those moments in the essay are tender and intimate.

What makes the essay memorable is the language play. Binyanvanga has always had a gift for experimental writing. He has always had a thing for pushing language to its extremes. Naive realists and grammar police know to stay away from his work.

In this essay, Binyavanga marshals all his writing chops and quirks. The peculiar way in which he breaks the rules on punctuation pushes the essay teasingly close to poetry and gives it a nice cadence. It is best to read the essay out loud. Binyavanga writes in fragments, so the flow of sentences are often interrupted by heavy poetic imagery or sudden shifts in subject matter. He freely creates new words by mixing adjectives, blending nouns, transforming nouns into verbs, and vice versa.

The essay is a must-read!

Here is an excerpt.

Three months ago I have, over four days, many headaches. Sometimes it is a thick wet wringing tongue moving there inside the raw roof of my brain, sometimes tiny skinless creatures tiptoeing, tickling and mischieving in my brain. Sometimes it is a big twinkling sponge of squeeze, sometimes some silently ticklish thing, walking upside down barefoot under my naked skull.

Sometimes bit parts and cutlets of my body displace ever so small-ey, side to side, and my waist and my hips are jerky. And then on a Friday my head is squeezing, and fingers sometimes numbing, my legs tripping each other, and I am so everywhere displaced with pinning and needling that I call a Red Hook taxi, am checked in and blood pressured, and Northern Dutchess Hospital tells me I have had up to twelve small strokes. I am ambulated urgently to a special stroke unit in Albany, New York, where I soft slidingly deny to listen or see, all while nodding grinning
to charts and chat and measurements, still refusing to. be. agreeing. to. any. such.

Since that one artery in my brain is nearly full of sticky brackish, they say they will have to put a microsurgery tube containing a microcamera inside my thigh at the beginning of the gushing artery pipe and all the way past past past into my neck and its thick pumping artery, into the filling-up artery in my brain to open the block. I say no. No. No.

I cannot talk, my tongue is swollen and we are laughing. My brain is puff gong. It is softest two-ply cloud computing. My sister Chiqy takes a plane to help me pack up and bring me home. Classes they are nearly done for the term and I will finish and go home to Nairobi. My brain it is humming like quiet and indivisible.

Already I want a cigarette, but not until never. My sister Chiqy arrives in JFK to help me pack up and take me home.

I am feeling so almost. Three months have gone, and with them already a Ghana holiday – tumbling down the hill with endless unrolling two-ply, with the million running tripping puppy dogs inside the African hurricane and the sun orange oozing thickly over small islands in Lake Victoria – and in one hour the Nairobi land below will be dark and toasting, and I will be full in-love, Ghana dark-tan and rampantly overflown, and the plane will land, fat wheels bumping, and we will be home, and we will soon be asleep, in a very Nairobi July cold, a Monday night. 10 July 2011.

Read the full essay HERE.

 

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Facebook link image by Erik (HASH) Hersman via Flickr.

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Ainehi Edoro is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches African literature. She received her doctorate at Duke University. She is the founder and editor of Brittle Paper and series editor of Ohio University Press’s Modern African Writer’s imprint.

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