Published in 2004 by Fountain Publishers, Austin Ejiet’s collection of fifteen short stories is humor at its best. The writer’s creativity is evident throughout the book. Uganda writer, Ejiet, who passed away in 2010 was popularly known as ‘master of the tongue-in-cheek writing’ and his style served as a model for many local journalists and writers. Not only did he write in English language, but he published three books in his native language, Ateso. He was also a regular contributor to the Monitor Newspaper, for which he authored the award winning newspaper column, “Take It or Leave It”.
Most of the stories in Aida, Hurray for Somoe and Other Stories, are written in the narrative, and though they are based on fiction, the reader almost feels as though they are based on the writer’s life experiences. The stories set against the backdrop of Uganda’s violent political history, are mostly about love, power, relationships and life in Uganda as a whole. More importantly they portray how different people react to different circumstances, some really disastrous.
In the story of Aida, for instance, Ejiet depicts how lack of information or ignorance can lead to devastating consequences. Aida is a beautiful young woman in Akisim, with many suitors but she has kept all of them at bay. Many stories are told about her, some say she was raped as a child and she’s psychologically affected, some say her former husband cast a spell on her; while others say she’s HIV positive, for didn’t her name AIDA remind them of AIDS? All this doesn’t put off Kassim, her latest suitor, and he pursues her with lots of determination. He succeeds in the end but his night of passion turns into disaster when he discovers that his triple protection (he had put on three condoms) against the virus has disappeared. He becomes insane, even though tests show he is not infected.
In another, Hurray for Somo, the writer tells a tale about power and how it corrupts the mind. The story sounds like the traditional folk tale- Somo is renowned witchdoctor in a certain village. Whereas before he has used his medicine to treat people, he later uses it to intimidate and kill people. As his popularity grows, so does his own awareness of the power he has. He starts to think he is indispensable. But: “there is a difference between a man who has power but is unaware of it and one who has it and knows that he has it. The former is harmless whereas the latter is potentially dangerous. Power………is a delicate commodity.”
I loved this collection; most of the stories will have the reader laughing in a short while. A good book to read after a rather stressful day.