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Ahmed Maiwada ventures into prose with Musdoki

Long romance with poetry His affinity for poetry comes from a long way back, all the way to his days at the College of Advance…

Long romance with poetry

His affinity for poetry comes from a long way back, all the way to his days at the College of Advance Studies, Zaria where he fell in love with love-inspired poetry.

“I had a girlfriend then who happened to be at the right place at the right time,” he told Sunday Trust. “So I started writing poetry in the ways of William Wordsworth because Wordsworth was a romantic poet. I started imitating him, writing poems for her.”

Ironically, years after that affair and having made a mark on the literary scene, it would be love again that would have him venture into prose with his debut novel, Musdoki.

“You will be surprised also that love is a common denominator in my prose,” the Abuja based lawyer admitted. It appears love is a phenomenon that fascinates him. But apart from Love, Maiwada, whose passion for literature was conceived in his parents’ library, was further encouraged by the works of his elder brother, Mu’azu Maiwada. The elder Maiwada had written a collection of short stories as his project. The younger Maiwada was challenged by this.

“I thought if he could do this, I could do this,” he said. “I have always imitated him, even in the football field.”

But is love all he writes about, Sunday Trust asked him. He ventures into “other serious things”, he said.

Aiming for a stellar throne

With his latest effort in print, Maiwada is aiming for a place in the chronicles of Nigerian writers of distinction by reaching out to a larger number of readers than he would have with his poems. Written in fluent prose, Musdoki is an experiment in muted magical realism. But the author did not set out to write a novel initially.

“I never set out to write Musdoki,” he said. “I had a number of short stories written here and there and then it occurred to me that I could select a number of them and put them in a frame and come up with a novel.”

He was encouraged by his friend and literary critic, Isaac Ogezi, who practically held a gun to his head, to have him write his first novel. For Maiwada, Ogezi’s role in the birth of Musdoki is akin to that of a progenitor.

“Without him I would not have written this novel,” he confessed.

Despite his seemingly inadvertent foray into prose, closer scrutiny shows it is not just a blind leap. He said he wanted to infuse post-modernism, which had characterised his poetry, into prose. Whether he has succeeded or not will be determined by critical readers of the book. He also wanted to “Communicate a story, to entertain” with a story of love that has overstepped its bound. Adding that “I wish to be read and understood by everybody who reads English.”

This is the writer’s desire regardless of an ominous  author’s note at the beginning of the book which reads:  This story shall be misunderstood.

But there is something else Maiwada wanted to prove with his transition from versed writing with its compressed and ostentatious language to lucid prose that is traditionally free flowing.

“I want to disprove the statement that anybody who excels in poetry cannot make it as a prose writer and I hope I have achieved it,” he enthused. He also wanted to prove that Nigerian prose could excel beyond the “mundane and ordinary that is being celebrated”, adding that he is writing to make a difference.

Challenges of crossing over

Having written poetry all along, it would be natural to expect a poet venturing into prose to face certain challenges. Maiwada admits there were challenges. “Poetry is a very jealous genre. It can pop out its head when you least expect it. When you conceive a short story, you might end up with a poem. So it was a serious tussle,” he said. He does think he has overcome the challenges but he hopes readers of Musdoki would be better judges.

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