Thoughts on a Literary Masterpiece: A Short Comment on Men of Letters: Litter Letters: The Trial of ANA


Review By Ebi Robert

Men of Letters: Litter Letters: The Trial of ANA is a seventy-four-page book (minus preliminary pages). The book is written by Knight David Suowari. It aptly discusses the travail of the biggest writers’ body in Nigeria (The Association of Nigerian Authors [ANA])—the beginning of the crisis and those whose actions deepened the ruinous crisis. In this book, the author puts different prominent actors through a juror trial, through which a share of blame is apportioned to them all. Though the book narrates the ANA national crisis that emerged at the National Convention a few years ago, it focuses mainly on how ANA Bayelsa became badly affected by the grievances and interests of the various actors involved. ‘ David Souwari’s masterpiece, as I call it, addresses very controversial issues marred by prolonged sentiments. So this review will not affirm, agree, or disagree with the author’s stance (if any) on any of the issues raised. Instead, it will comment only on the literariness of the art.


Men of Letters: Litter Letters: The Trial of ANA is a small piece, maybe a novella (I cannot pick the word count). I cannot be exact on its actual classification. What I read wasn’t a soft copy. The font size looks fourteen or maybe sixteen, and the characters are not looking small. So the word count may be around the size of a novella. But despite the book’s brevity, it distinguishes itself as a rich piece of literary art, I maintain.


The author uses a third-person narrative technique to tell his story. He consciously represented the major actors in some satirically invented characters. And because I know about most of the small details, I was able to decipher a handful of them, even as they made their prosaic appearances. The storytelling technique of the writer was top-notch. His employment of literary, biblical, and historical allusions was outstanding, pointing to how widely read the author is. He made references to local arts by their titles, such that any book lover who is familiar with the implied creatives will easily relate to the mentions.


But because the book tells the ANA crisis in a literary but somewhat judicial tone, the author employs a kind of legal approach to his narration. There is the Juror, and the indicted ones—a form of sui generis proceedings followed by some sentencing. Late and living creative figures—fathers of the craft—made up the jury and quizzed the deaths birthed by the respondents.


What is interesting in the narration is how the author easily utilised some legal maxims and jargon in fixing his uniquely influenced account. Anyone would easily assume that the knight is a learned cotton or silk—something of that sort. If not that I knew the knight’s bio, to some extent, at least, I would've had that sentiment to think about as well. Yet, I may still fall for that thought. There is nothing extraordinary. The former registrar of very prestigious institutions may have something he is not telling us. Who knows!


And to think about how he infused local colour into this legal cum literary narrative is worth the extolment. He beautifully switched from a literary tone to a legal tone, and then to a local (Ijaw tone)—and back and forth, and forth and back. Isn’t that interesting?


The knight has a very good command of English. His words flow endlessly, like River Nun. The connection is mind-blowing, intriguing, and engaging. Lovers of good works of literature would find the book shelf-worthy. It suffices for a dramaturgic art. No doubt. I could go on and on.


I am tempted to give excerpts to buttress my views, as I list them, but for the controversial subject matter it addresses, I beg to hold my peace. Recall that I had said that this comment only judges this work from a literary perspective. But it is noteworthy that, apart from its literary quality, the work markets the craft of local creatives in a sense. Some relatively non-sentimental excerpts read:


Masquerade dances will soon awaken our spirit of merriment. Contests of trickery of wit and muscle which is Izon wrestling will dethrone, retain or crown another champion wrestler for the coming year. I am sure they are already sharpening wrestling wits. (Ekean Sin, Page 3) [Sic]


Club; Association of persons who hold a mirror for society to judge itself. Watchers standing on the road side watching the traffic of life rich by noting what the traffic does not see of itself. (Ekean Sin, Page 6) [Sic]


Well, the taste of the Poloufiai is in the eating. Let us taste the puloufiai first and leave our tongue to be judge. You can’t conjecture what kekefiai other olotus will serve us at the wrestling arena. Hope we have not dipped our paddle in the wrong waters’. (En Route Newscastle, 13) [Sic]


Homecoming was bound in miseries. The LORD OF THE FLIES would not permit some buttocks a seat on the bus, having been labelled followers of the opponent camp. Birds of assorted feathers would not flock together. Only birds of identical plumage congregate the closest proximity…so squabbles and bickering ‘put a knife’ in the Brotherhood of the pen and being NO LONGER AT EASE, THINGS ‘FELL’ APART. Thus we returned to GLORYLAND with no glory, save tempers adorned with garlands of grudges before and after the Convention. (Epiphany, 23-24) [Sic]


Just a few excerpts, as promised—Men of Letters: Litter Letters: The Trial of ANA—interpret many issues. Truly, readers can see it from different perspectives based on their respective terms of reference.


By Ebi Robert


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