Waiting for an Angel

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"Lomba is a young journalist living under military rule in Lagos, Nigeria, the most dangerous city in the world. His mind is full of soul music and girls and the lyric novel he is writing. But his roommate is brutally attacked by soldiers; his first love is forced to marry a wealthy general; and his neighbors on Poverty Street are planning a demonstration that is bound to incite riot and arrests. Lomba can no longer bury his head in the sand." Helon Habila's debut opens a window onto a world in some ways familiar - with is sensuously depicted
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Overview

"Lomba is a young journalist living under military rule in Lagos, Nigeria, the most dangerous city in the world. His mind is full of soul music and girls and the lyric novel he is writing. But his roommate is brutally attacked by soldiers; his first love is forced to marry a wealthy general; and his neighbors on Poverty Street are planning a demonstration that is bound to incite riot and arrests. Lomba can no longer bury his head in the sand." Helon Habila's debut opens a window onto a world in some ways familiar - with is sensuously depicted streets, student life, and vibrant local characters - yet ruled by one of the world's most corrupt and oppressive regimes, a scandal that ultimately drives Lomba to take a risk in the name of something greater than himself. Habila captures the energy, sensitivity, despair, and stubborn hope of a new African generation with a combination of gritty realism and poetic beauty.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Habila's first novel captures the chaos and brutality of Nigeria in the 1990s under the rule of despotic military dictator Gen. Sani Abacha. The story follows Lomba, a quixotic, apolitical student in the capital city of Lagos, who is trying to write a novel in his shabby tenement on Morgan Street (better known as Poverty Street) and covering arts for a city newspaper, the Dial. Soon, Lomba's roommate is attacked by soldiers, journalists are arrested all over the city and the Dial offices are set on fire. Lomba decides to take part in a prodemocracy demonstration. There, he is arrested and imprisoned for three years. The novel's narrative moves back and forth in time, beginning with Lomba's life in prison and ending with the climactic events leading up to the arrest. Some chapters are written in the third person, others narrated by Lomba himself and still others by a high school student named Kela, who lives near Lomba on Poverty Street and crosses paths with him just before the fateful demonstration. Through their eyes, Habila paints an extraordinary tableau of Poverty Street ("one of the many decrepit, disease-ridden quarters that dotted the city of Lagos like ringworm on a beggar's body"), bringing their sounds, sights and smells to life with his spare prose and flair for metaphor. Kela's aunt runs the Godwill Food Centre Restaurant; through his encounters with the patrons, as well as his activist English teacher, Kela (and readers) learn about Nigeria's bloody postcolonial history. Though somewhat marred by the abrupt, disorienting shifts among narrators and time periods, this is a powerful, startlingly vivid novel. (Jan.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Nigerian author Habila's debut novel is a noble account of how even the poorest and lowliest people must rise up against oppression, regardless of the consequences. Habila tells the story of Lomba as he goes from student to failed novelist to journalist to political prisoner, trying to retain his dignity despite the corruption and violence that has contaminated every part of Nigerian society. As, one by one, those he loves or cares about are battered in one way or another by the regime, Lomba realizes that he must take action, however small, in order to remain human. While an afterword explains the history of Nigeria's brutal juntas, it is Habila's fictionalization that reveals the true casualties of oppression better than any news account or history. Each chapter could stand on its own as a short story-the first section received the 2001 Caine Prize for African Writing-but together they form a powerful portrait of a people beaten down by poverty and violence but not destroyed by them. Recommended for all public libraries.-Ellen Flexman, Indianapolis-Marion Cty. P.L., IN Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A young Nigerian intellectual collides with his country's brutal military regime, in this intense first novel by a native African writer now living in London.

Lomba is a Lagos journalist and would-be novelist whom we meet in 1997, when he's imprisoned on fabricated charges, sunk in depression, which is recorded faithfully in his diary-and appropriated by the prison superintendent, who coaxes "Love Poems" out of Lomba, then sends them to his own mistress. Thereafter, the tale moves (rather chaotically) about in time as Habila focuses on: Lomba's friend Bola, whose reckless antigovernment speeches destroy his life; the woman Lomba loves but cannot marry because she's promised to another, an older man who pays her ailing mother's medical bills; Lomba's tenure at a magazine of arts and politics, The Dial (whose harried editor admonishes the idealistic young writer with "Everything is politics in this country, don't forget that"); and the experiences of Kela, a teenaged delinquent sent to Lagos to live with relatives, who encounters Lomba just prior to the protest demonstration and consequent bloodbath that send Lomba to prison (his "crime": observing and reporting the aforementioned demonstration). The "angel" for whom Lomba thereafter passively waits is the Angel of Death-as we're reminded by far too many sententious generalizations about freedom stifled and "the stymied, sense-dulling miasma of existence." Fortunately, these are offset by Habila's gift for vivid sensory descriptions and employment of a rich pattern of images in which birds and flight suggest energy and escape, but also the elusiveness of loved and desired things; how swiftly and completely they can vanish.

Comparisonsof Habila to Nigeria's great novelist Chinua Achebe are, to put it mildly, premature. But he's an obviously committed and serious writer: on balance, a more than worthy debut.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393051933
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/28/2003
  • Edition description: 1 AMER ED
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

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