Waiting for an Angel is told episodically through linked stories, focusing on well-drawn and believable characters and their daily lives. He writes with great compassion and empathy, bringing to the fore not only the place and its atmosphere but also emphasizing the individuals’ capacity for hope and courage, friendship and love, beauty and poetry, despite the disturbing circumstances that they have to confront. The book was first published in 2000 in Nigeria as a story collection with one of the stories, “Love Poems”, winning Habila the 2001 Caine Prize for African Writing. The collection was later published in a revised format as Waiting for an Angel in 2002.
Helon Habila’s new novel, “Oil on Water” is a confidently crafted and absorbing, in parts totally gripping, chronicle of human ambitions, tragedies and failures, but also of love, friendship and perseverance of the human spirit. Evoking the rich and beautiful yet fragile environment of the Delta, that is slowly being devastated by the greed for oil and money, Habila perceptively guides his different narrative strands into a poignant story that is profoundly personal even where he raises broader political and societal concerns.
“Measuring Time” is the story of twin brothers, their family and the people that shaped them. Living in rural Nigeria, village life and the natural environment add atmosphere and context. Habila’s story-telling talent are evident in numerous ways. His own narrative of people and events is interwoven with those of his protagonist Mamo, who in later years writes about the people around him and thereby becomes a recorder of the local history.