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Measuring TimeMeasuring Time
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Measuring Time

Published on 2015
In the late 1970s, twin brothers LaMamo and Mamo Lamang dream of leaving their Nigerian village to find fame and fortune. When they're 16, LaMamo runs away and joins various rebel factions fighting in West Africa, while his sickly brother, Mamo, stays behind with their belligerent father (their mother died in childbirth) and becomes a brilliant student. LaMamo's occasional letters let Mamo live vicariously but, more importantly, lets Habila (Waiting for an Angel ) reinforce his work's central message—that the biographies of ordinary individuals provide the real stuff of history. As Mamo becomes the history teacher at a local school, LaMamo actually lives history, meeting Charles Taylor and witnessing the anarchic chaos of West Africa in the 1980s and '90s. Mamo embarks on a career as a chronicler of "biographical history" (modeled on Plutarch's Parallel Lives ), beginning with a history of his village and his culture. Like his wayward brother, Mamo witnesses events that force him to examine his conscience. Habila fleshes out the novel with memorable secondary characters—a thuggish cousin, a damaged idealist love interest, an especially Machiavellian bureaucrat. The fresh, brilliant result contrasts cultural traditions with contemporary bureaucracy and reimagines a country through the ordinary and extraordinary experiences of its citizens Reviews The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/25/books/review/Kunzru.t.html The Guardian, UK: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2007/feb/10/featuresreviews.guardianreview17 Financial Times: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/a2b13420-b67d-11db-8bc2-0000779e2340.html#ixzz2rE0lTPUh New Statesman: http://www.newstatesman.com/books/2007/02/helon-habila-mamo-measuring
Measuring TimeMeasuring Time
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Measuring Time

In the late 1970s, twin brothers LaMamo and Mamo Lamang dream of leaving their Nigerian village to find fame and fortune. When they're 16, LaMamo runs away and joins various rebel factions fighting in West Africa, while his sickly brother, Mamo, stays behind with their belligerent father (their mother died in childbirth) and becomes a brilliant student. LaMamo's occasional letters let Mamo live vicariously but, more importantly, lets Habila (Waiting for an Angel ) reinforce his work's central message—that the biographies of ordinary individuals provide the real stuff of history. As Mamo becomes the history teacher at a local school, LaMamo actually lives history, meeting Charles Taylor and witnessing the anarchic chaos of West Africa in the 1980s and '90s. Mamo embarks on a career as a chronicler of "biographical history" (modeled on Plutarch's Parallel Lives ), beginning with a history of his village and his culture. Like his wayward brother, Mamo witnesses events that force him to examine his conscience. Habila fleshes out the novel with memorable secondary characters—a thuggish cousin, a damaged idealist love interest, an especially Machiavellian bureaucrat. The fresh, brilliant result contrasts cultural traditions with contemporary bureaucracy and reimagines a country through the ordinary and extraordinary experiences of its citizens Reviews The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/25/books/review/Kunzru.t.html The Guardian, UK: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2007/feb/10/featuresreviews.guardianreview17 Financial Times: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/a2b13420-b67d-11db-8bc2-0000779e2340.html#ixzz2rE0lTPUh New Statesman: http://www.newstatesman.com/books/2007/02/helon-habila-mamo-measuring
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Oil on WaterOil on Water
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Oil on Water

Published on 2011
In Habila's stirring third novel (after Measuring Time), a pair of Nigerian reporters are dispatched to find the kidnapped wife of a British oil executive. Young Rufus and his disgraced mentor, Zaq, track the wife's captors—guerrilla forces fighting against the petroleum industry and its government allies—through the lush Nigerian delta, wandering along oil-slicked rivers, villages destroyed by war, and communities evicted by a land-hungry oil company. Rufus, whose own family has been shattered by the oil industry's machinations, bears witness to pointless cruelties inflicted by both sides of the conflict and the suffering of a population uprooted and set adrift on a desecrated landscape. The novel is a cinematic adventure and a remarkably tense race against the clock set in a haunting world of mangroves, floating villages, and jungle shrines—but it is also a brooding political tragedy in the Graham Greene tradition, one that illustrates the environmental and human costs of resource extraction in corrupt, postcolonial Africa. The delta and its people are rendered with insight and sensitivity, but also an unsparing sense of irony; indeed, it's a credit to Habila's storytelling that his mournful vision of the world never eclipses its fragile beauty, or its humanity. Reviews The Guardian, UK: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/aug/29/oil-on-water-helon-habila The Independent, UK: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/oil-on-water-by-helon-habila-2050904.html The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/03/books/review/fiction-chronicle-novels-by-banana-yoshimoto-marcelo-figueras-helon-habila-and-johanna-skibsrud.html Orion Magazine: http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/review/6406/
Oil on WaterOil on Water
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Oil on Water

In Habila's stirring third novel (after Measuring Time), a pair of Nigerian reporters are dispatched to find the kidnapped wife of a British oil executive. Young Rufus and his disgraced mentor, Zaq, track the wife's captors—guerrilla forces fighting against the petroleum industry and its government allies—through the lush Nigerian delta, wandering along oil-slicked rivers, villages destroyed by war, and communities evicted by a land-hungry oil company. Rufus, whose own family has been shattered by the oil industry's machinations, bears witness to pointless cruelties inflicted by both sides of the conflict and the suffering of a population uprooted and set adrift on a desecrated landscape. The novel is a cinematic adventure and a remarkably tense race against the clock set in a haunting world of mangroves, floating villages, and jungle shrines—but it is also a brooding political tragedy in the Graham Greene tradition, one that illustrates the environmental and human costs of resource extraction in corrupt, postcolonial Africa. The delta and its people are rendered with insight and sensitivity, but also an unsparing sense of irony; indeed, it's a credit to Habila's storytelling that his mournful vision of the world never eclipses its fragile beauty, or its humanity. Reviews The Guardian, UK: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/aug/29/oil-on-water-helon-habila The Independent, UK: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/oil-on-water-by-helon-habila-2050904.html The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/03/books/review/fiction-chronicle-novels-by-banana-yoshimoto-marcelo-figueras-helon-habila-and-johanna-skibsrud.html Orion Magazine: http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/review/6406/
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TravelersTravelers
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Travelers

Published on 2012
The plight of contemporary African refugees is the dramatic core of this moving tale. The nameless narrator of the book’s opening (the novel is divided into six sections with different characters, but the narrator connects all of them) is a native Nigerian finishing work on his dissertation, who accompanies his American wife on her art fellowship to Berlin. While she paints, he falls in with a community of students who hail from Malawi, Senegal, and other African nations. Through the characters’ friendships and associations, Habila (The Chibok Girls) relates the stories of a number of asylum seekers who fled wretched circumstances and now face uncertain prospects (among them a former doctor working in Berlin as a nightclub bouncer and a man who escaped with his family from an armed Somalian rebel who was determined to marry the man’s 10-year-old daughter). The narrator comes to know the depths of their desperation himself when, returning from Switzerland, he loses his papers and is deported to a refugee camp in Italy. “Where am I? Who am I? How did I get here?” cries one refugee, summing up the sense of dislocation and loss of identity they all feel, yet Habila never presents them as objects of pity, but rather as exemplars of human resilience. Readers will find this novel a potent tale for these times. Reviews The Guardian, UK: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jul/07/travellers-helon-habila-review World Literature Today: https://www.worldliteraturetoday.org/2020/summer/travelers-helon-habila
TravelersTravelers
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Travelers

The plight of contemporary African refugees is the dramatic core of this moving tale. The nameless narrator of the book’s opening (the novel is divided into six sections with different characters, but the narrator connects all of them) is a native Nigerian finishing work on his dissertation, who accompanies his American wife on her art fellowship to Berlin. While she paints, he falls in with a community of students who hail from Malawi, Senegal, and other African nations. Through the characters’ friendships and associations, Habila (The Chibok Girls) relates the stories of a number of asylum seekers who fled wretched circumstances and now face uncertain prospects (among them a former doctor working in Berlin as a nightclub bouncer and a man who escaped with his family from an armed Somalian rebel who was determined to marry the man’s 10-year-old daughter). The narrator comes to know the depths of their desperation himself when, returning from Switzerland, he loses his papers and is deported to a refugee camp in Italy. “Where am I? Who am I? How did I get here?” cries one refugee, summing up the sense of dislocation and loss of identity they all feel, yet Habila never presents them as objects of pity, but rather as exemplars of human resilience. Readers will find this novel a potent tale for these times. Reviews The Guardian, UK: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jul/07/travellers-helon-habila-review World Literature Today: https://www.worldliteraturetoday.org/2020/summer/travelers-helon-habila
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Waiting for an AngelWaiting for an Angel
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Waiting for an Angel

Published on 1999
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. Reviews Publishers Weekly: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-393-05193-3 The Guardian, UK: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2002/oct/26/featuresreviews.guardianreview8 Open Democracy: http://www.opendemocracy.net/arts-Literature/article_1580.jsp Kirkus Review: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/helon-habila/waiting-for-an-angel/
Waiting for an AngelWaiting for an Angel
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Waiting for an Angel

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. Reviews Publishers Weekly: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-393-05193-3 The Guardian, UK: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2002/oct/26/featuresreviews.guardianreview8 Open Democracy: http://www.opendemocracy.net/arts-Literature/article_1580.jsp Kirkus Review: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/helon-habila/waiting-for-an-angel/
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