The Strange Man (published in 1969 by Heinmann) is the story of Old Mensa, a much respected member of a village community in Ghana. It’s a powerful story told in a soft manner. A story that examines the ills in the society especially the religious hypocrisy that has slowly come to stay and is eating deep into the fabric of the community and nation at large.
Mensa’s father Old Anang was an intelligent village man who believed in educating children in such a way that they would not become religious fanatics and parochial members of the community but they would have a free broadminded view of life and consequently become good citizens with an active conscience. This reflected in the way he raised little Mensa. Little Mensa was a stubborn and witty boy who always got into trouble in the village, the most memorable of which was the castrating of an unruly he- goat. The father decides to send him to one of his relatives in urban Accra, Mr Lomo. Mensa is excited to leave the village especially because he had made several enemies back at home including the church bell ringer. Also, because he had heard so much good things about the city. On getting there, he discovers that the house in the village where they live is in a better state than Mr Lomo’s the teacher house. He also discovers, much to his utter chagrin that Mrs Lomo feeds her children well but gives him and the other boys living with them measly meals. He is thoroughly disappointed but has no choice but to continue with his life there.
Having being trained by his father to be independent and to always speak his mind, he gets punished a number of times for doing that. An example was the time when a student offended Mr Lomo and he was called out on the assembly ground, Mr Lomo then asked the whole assembly of teachers and students what should be done to the errant. Everyone chorused `whip him’ except Mensa whose scream of `don’t whip him’ stood out amidst all others. He was called out by the angry Mr Lomo and whipped alongside the errant. He soon learns that honesty does not always pay and becomes adept at doing evil without being discovered. He makes new friends and adjusts to life.
The story follows him up to secondary school where he became more worldly wise. His father died shortly before he entered school and his mother had to borrow some money ironically, from their long time enemy, the bell ringer proving that favour can come from any quarters. The proceeds from his mother’s trade sent he and his brother,Tete to school. Tete had always been competitive, struggling to be known and congratulated instead of his brother. Yet, he lived all his life in his brother’s shadow despite the fact that he amassed more wealth. Mensa also became rich but he actually stood out for his integrity, noble attitudes, generous spirit and blunt opinions. He made sure he invested in his children’s education and thought it had all began to pay off until when his only daughter starts to misbehave involving herself in a local scandal. That, coupled with the sudden death of his only brother, Tete leaves Mensa a very sick and worried man and ends the story on a grim note.
The Strange Man was Amu Djoleto’s first novel.