People We Like
How We Buried Puso
Reader Review by Nana Fredua-Agyeman
Morabo Morojele's book is no ordinary work. The book is about a young man, Molefe (or 'Lefe) who left home for greener pastures abroad. He encountered a lot of difficulties and yet had to pretend that it was all well and good in order not to lose respect and cause disappointment at home. It even happened that when his grandmother died he couldn't attend the funeral. This was not because he was busy, as he made his family believe, but because he was broke.
In the end, Molefe had to return home following the death of his only brother. He came home to meet a lot of changes and challenges and having acquired some European culture, he had to face his tradition head on. There is a hint of loneliness and isolation all through the novel.
The author Morabo Morojele, being a jazz musician, carried that music into the novel. The story is deep and hardly names places, somewhat like 'the man' in Ayi Kwei Armah's 'The Beautyful Ones are not yet Born'. For instance, there is the strange and almost mythical country only referred to as 'the country neighbouring ours' and there is also the 'Empire' where the story was set.
The story is laden with political undertones and colonisation, both in 'the country neighbouring ours', whose natives always come to the empire to seek refuge from unknown pursuers and events, or the Empire itself. The Empire, which is probably Lesotho, the author's home country, is portrayed as having neither a leader nor a ruling government. Progress in The Empire is confined within the civil service boundary.
Twice, named so after his stuttering way of speaking, is an enigmatic character whose actual name was never disclosed even to his two close pals: 'Lefe and Abuti Jefti. His participation in an unknown war, his near-death encounter in the war, his optimism after the war and his disappearance and appearance are all as enigmatic as the man himself. There are a lot of things that remained unsaid in the story. The story also touches on other social problems that were again not named: HIV/AIDS and unemployment.
The story is unique in narration, phrase and diction. The narration is poetic. The phrases have been turned upside down and there is a sparse use of articles and conjunctions. In 'How we Buried Puso' nouns easily become verbs and verbs, nouns. It is these qualities that make the book a difficult read. It does not flow as smoothly as any other book. Perhaps, it is because it is not just any other book. It is a book by Morabo Morojele, and that might be his nascent style. With time you get used to the phrases and are no longer surprised by his phrasal acrobatics. Apart from the musical quality of this novel, the author relied a lot on flashbacks. However, sometimes one gets a little confused as to where a past event ends and where the present begins. The story ends after the burial of Puso, Molefe's elder brother.
However, I believe the book could have benefited to some extent from proof-reading. There were certain points where homophones are interchanged. For example 'new' for 'knew'. Yet, it does not take anything away from the book and if you are interested in African writers and new, challenging writing, then get a copy of this book.
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