Thursday, March 28, 2013

I Do Not Come to You by Chance by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

This is a page turner of a book and Nwaubani in I Do Not Come to You by Chance (2010) has been able to master a well written novel with great comedic style through caricature, something I have not seen in Nigerian authors.  Not unlike Noo Saro-Wiwa, her father was an activist, although Chukwuma Hope Nwaubani never paid with his life.  She was born in Enugu, grew up in Umuahia and has stayed in Nigeria, graduating from the Univ. of Ibadan, now living in Lagos after time spent in Abuja.  Got that?  The story takes place in Abia State and involves the Igbo tribe ("the niggers of Nigeria," pp. 234, 254) as does much Nigerian fiction. 
The title was inspired by Ecclesiastes 9:11.  "I returned, and saw under the sun,that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all."  The author found the titular line from a '419' letter (p. 178) to an unsuspecting foreigner or "mugu" (p. 177).
It is interesting that this young woman writes a novel through the eyes of a young man, Kingsley Onyeaghalanwanneya Ibe.  He is an "opara" (pp. 15, 182, 376) the eldest son.  The author's name Adaobi means first daughter.  He loses his idealism and joins his Uncle Boniface aka Cash Daddy in a 419 Nigerian Letter scam.  The mugu is lured into various fees to be paid before he receives the big money, be it hidden money in a Swiss bank account or whatever. 
Ikhide Ikheloa ( opines that the book 'reeks of rampant anti-intellectualism.  Cash Daddy chides Kingsley for his bookish aspirations. 
 The book is loaded with hilarity.  We learn that the National Electric Power Authority is best called Never Expect Power Always (p. 64).  "it felt as if 2,2,4-trimethylpentane had been pumped into my heart and set alight with a stick of match" (p.95) refers to the octane isomer used in octane rating.  Ben & Jerry's ice cream seems a staple of the 419ers (p. 145).  Kings' father relates the story of how the tortoise broke his back (p. 158), yet this fable already appeared in Adiche's Purple Hibiscus (2003), oops !  Kings notes that as Cash Daddy emerges from the shower "his five limbs were thick and long" (214).

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