TITLE: SEASON OF CRIMSON BLOSSOMS
AUTHOR: ABUBAKAR ADAM IBRAHIM
NUMBER OF PAGES: 347 (Thirty-two Chapters in two parts)
PUBLISHER: Parresia Publishers Limited
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 2015
REVIEWER: Salamatu Sule
Abubakar Adam Ibrahim is a classic Northern Nigerian English novelist and author of the endorsed and much-admired short story collection, The Whispering Trees, which was published by Paressia in 2012.
Having received several ratings and reviews from both the print media and other webzines like the Critical Literature Review online (31 July, 2012), News Tower Blog Spot (December, 8 2013), Parresia Blog (2012), Adam has continued to win prestigious literary accolades and mentions which include the BBC African Performance for Playwriting Competition in 2007 and the Amatu Braide Prize for Prose in 2008. He is a 2013 Gabriel Garcia Marquez Fellow and a 2015 Civitella Ranieri Fellow. He is also included in the Hay Festival’s Africa List of the 39 most promising African Writers under the age of 40 and has translated some of his stories from the Valentine Anthology into Hausa – one of the major indigenous languages in Nigeria.
‘Season of Crimson Blossoms’ is his debut novel, three years after he birthed his short story collection ‘The Whispering Trees’. This work of fiction comprises of two parts and thirty-two chapters.
It portrays the lifestyle of a modern-day Northern Nigeria society and the shattering effect of environment on the human personality. It is a novel set in three Northern Nigeria locations including Abuja, the Federal Capital city within the periods of 2009 to 2015 with a sketch of historical references in the face of a robust digital epoch.
It is a daring novel about the life of Binta, a widow who finds herself in a complex love tangle with her twenty five year old lover Hassan ‘Reza’, the much feared lord of the ghetto of San Siro. He had come into her room for a strict business that night, to rob her of her possession and seen something more entrancing and disturbing about Binta, something that reminded him of his own mother and something about love too.
‘When he stopped, momentarily, Binta could not discern the expression on his face’ (pg.9)
A steady dark relationship results amidst grappling with the death of Munkaila, both parties are thoughtless about the consequence of their act of sexual escapades. Love tangles of this nature are perceived as taboo or ‘abin kunya’, something that shouldn’t be seen or heard at all in this part of the society. Adam tells this as a happily never after story as opposed to the endings of most ‘soyayya’ novels, much loved by Faiza. ‘Abin Kunya’ connotes embarrassment, shame, immodesty, and divergence from traditional norms; it is a feeling which in certain social circumstances raises eyebrows. Another area where the author emphasises kunya is the social relationship between mother and her first son as Binta calls her son Yaro instead of his first name.
In this novel, Adam shows to reader’s man’s wickedness and bestial attitude towards his fellow man including how war can strip and rip a people of the love and unity that once held them together. Through the eyes of Faiza, we see images of the Jos crises from which Faiza is left with a serious psychological trauma as she tries to grapple with the situation; she almost cannot remember the face of her late brother and often paints and sketches pictures. The story about how her father was killed by her mathematics teacher is shocking and traumatizing. The effect of the aftermath leaves poor Faiza in a state of mind that resembles her being possessed by the djinn.
“When they broke down the bathroom door, her father went first, hands raised above his head”
“Kill him! Kill him! What are you waiting for? It was a woman” (pg.83)
“Faiza stepped forward and saw the face of Jacob James, her maths teacher, who always dressed smartly- his shirt ironed and tucked in with a neatly knotted tie.”
“His face made fierce by war paint, glistened with sweat and odium as he raised his machete and brought it down. Bright, red blood, warm and sticky, splashed across Faiza’s face and dotted, in a fine spray, the shell-pink nightdress that her father had bought her” (Pg.84).
Adam raises issues about the lack of orientation and illiteracy of a larger number of Northern Nigerian youths and how the ruling elites and the politicians take advantage of their predicament, offering them peanuts while using them as agents of destruction. The irony is that their own children are far away, outside the shores of the country advancing in their academic careers.
What happened to Reza can be seen as the sad and pathetic story of lack of orientation and knowledge due to the desire for a perpetual colonialization and subjugation. The upper class will not stop wearing the garment of oppression to further subdue the youth for selfish gains; what might happen after the death of Reza cannot be far from the socio-political and religious tensions we see in the North-East today. Adam warns clearly that the ugly seed that political god fathers plant, will germinate to haunt us tomorrow hence the need to fumigate the environment from all negative mental toxins. Reza is reminded umpteen times By Binta about the need to go back to school while Senator Maikudi continually drags him back to stagnation.
“She sat beside him and, as she would her own son, talked to him about the importance of education” pg. 271
Every character in this novel is faced with societal complications and connects with a ‘crimson blossom’. Faiza wants to create illustrative images of the war within while Hureira wants her husband back. For Binta it is a love that will linger on the printed lace with butterflies as she runs it on the sewing machine. In life we work towards achieving particular set-out goals, but most often, we find ourselves being wheedled to living with the scars from our peculiar problems forever.
The book is rich in proverbs from the northern region displaying the richness of the culture while also highlighting the northerners as the most informed individuals of our clime.
Mallam Haruna is never seen without his transistor: he gets firsthand information about what happens daily and as a symbol, his radio is seen as his Crimson Blossom while he tries to woo Binta.
While many may consider the love issues in Season of Crimson Blossoms as mere fact or fallacy, Adam succeeds in bringing to the literary map a tale of an unusual love story in an era of murky conditions.
One cannot miss out the use of code switching and code mixing as a speech style of usage and portrayal of intra group identity, contact of the coming together of two or more linguistic expressions. One may also see it as a form of emphasis and aesthetics. There are many instances of this in almost every page of the book; for example When Munkaila tells Hajia Binta about the richness of how food cooked with firewood taste, she replies in a code mixing gesture.
“Oh, trust me you won’t want your wife smelling of all that makamashi; all that burnt rubber and whatnot” (pg106)
Adam did not only succeed in bringing out this unity in the various lexicons by their different native speakers but also succeeds in bringing out the vernacular (peculiar) use of the English of these different tongues.
‘You dey look me? No be good thing? No be him dismiss me from police, say I no competent. If to say I see am, I fo shoot am to pieces myself’ (pg.50).
There are several thematic discourse which runs from love vs loss, complications vs implications, bond vs blood, widowhood and marriage in northern Nigeria as well as the importance of Information and education. The theme of political corruption and pollution cannot be overemphasized.
This book is highly informative as one is able to relate to the socio- political pollution of the immediate environment of the characters especially that of Reza, Gattuso and Joe. One can only agree with the author that there are political implications as well as historical consequences of the ignorance of the people of Northern Nigeria.
Season of Crimson Blossoms engages readers to the point that readers from other part of the region and indeed outside of Nigeria will be learning something new about the cultures of the North.
A reader may feel emotionally touched by the different social issues raised in the text, anyone who reads this book will also agree that Adam has succeeded in bringing to the literary map a tale of unusual love story about the places he used to know in the era of a murky condition.
Every character in this book is a protagonist of his world as they work towards conquering their trouble minds.
I am a member of the WRR editorial team.