Breaking barriers and pushing the frontiers of language: A review of Mutiu Olawuyi’s “The Blotted Pawpaw” (A story without verb)

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This entry is part 4 of 12 in the series Reviews Season Four

Mutiu Olawuyi has joined the team of great writers like Joseph Conrad and Chinua Achebe with his “The Blotted Pawpaw” which he wrote without a single verb! Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy reviews

Innovativeness and experimentation in the use of English language has most often being the preserve of writers. It is even more surprising that these writers are not native speakers of the English language but rather have the language as a second language.

Although, their wondrous feats with the English language could; perhaps; be adjudged to a merger of cultural backgrounds (the English culture and that of the writers’), their efforts at putting the English language through the test of fire has not gone unnoticed, they deserve commendation for opening up new vistas from which we can now access the English language.

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In the late 19th and 20th century, we had the Irish born writer, James Joyce, using the English language in a refreshingly novel manner that left many applauding his works, soon came the Pole writer, Joseph Conrad (who had English as his, not second but, third language), and we met him fashioning profound ideas using simple diction and a style that is simplistic. Amos Tutuola’s example, even with its flaws, showed to us the possibilities that the English language permits. Inspired by Conrad and Tutuola’s example, Africa’s most prolific writer, Chinua Achebe, would emerge much later to beat and fine tune the English language in a way that enables the language “carry the weight of his cultural experience”. Achebe’s worthy feat established for a fact what is now known as “a true Africa novel” and he continues to serve as a great influence in the African literary arena. Next came the Nigerian Nobel Laurette, Wole Soyinka, whose experimentation and idolisation of language remains an important issue for writers and critics discussing literary arts. Soyinka’s ability to manipulate the language was quite shocking and surprising to even the native speakers that they were compelled to respect his resourcefulness and ebullience.

Today, another writer has just joined the ranks of these great writers. That writer is Mutiu Olawuyi and his ticket to joining this team of writers is his “The Blotted Pawpaw” written without a single verb! Yes, you heard me right; I just said it is without a single verb!

The verb is, perhaps, the most important aspect of sentence construction for it expresses “state” and “action” and we are wont to say that a phrase cannot make complete sense since it comes without the finite verb just as we cannot have a clause without the verb. Yet, here is Mutiu Olawuyi proving us wrong by reeling out several paragraphs without even a verb.  The question you all must now be asking is: does his story makes sense? The valid answer is of course a YES.

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With me here is the first episode of the story, it is the story of a spoilt, over pampered and lazy only son (Patrick Lawrence) of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence. While the father thinks his son too lazy, the mother is blind to the son’s flaws. She sees nothing wrong with him and is quick to jump to the defensive should anyone blame her son for anything. She thinks he is a split resemblance of his equally lazy father.

Patrick’s lackadaisical attitude soon leaves him without a job and he runs to the bosom of his ever defensive mother who soon connects with a friend of hers in the city (Abuja) to get him a job. As he prepares to leave, he schemes with his mother to engage the daughter of his mother’s friend in an amorous relationship.

Although this is the first episode of the story, and we cannot now begin to evaluate the full merits or demerits of the story, we can safely say that it is a commendable feat based on the innovativeness in language use. There are cases of omission of determiners at certain points (nothing another spate of editing cannot correct though), and a manipulation of words which should have appeared in verbal contexts to read as nouns. I noticed the resort to a near version of what is known as “Pidgin English” at certain points so as to eliminate the verbs and I presume that this bothers on the writer’s cultural experience. There are also instances of disconnections at certain points so as to allow for the mastication of the verbs before kicking them out, yet it does not berate the fact that the work reads surprisingly refreshing.

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One thing to also note in this work is the fact that, though the work shoots off all the verbs, it ironically foregrounds the pertinence of verbs in the clause structure for our mind is conditioned to think of the world and events in them in relation to actions and performances. So while the verbs are absent, the mind does not fail to supply the missing links as we peruse the story.

If anything, Mutiu Olawuyi, has shown that he is a great scholar of language who not only knows the workability of the language, but also understands the manipulability. He has breathed new life into the language and has sent it scampering about on its feet. He has pushed frontiers and broken through barriers to give us this offering and we can only hope that this would not be the last of such experimentation, not just for him, but for many others who may be inspired by this daring feat to try something similar or even different. Hey, maybe I could try concocting a book review without verbs too hun, or what do you suppose? Haha!

Thank you for reading, and let’s meet again for another book review.

© Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy 2018

Series Navigation<< Yann Martel’s Life of Pi: Surviving against all oddsTekena Nitonye Tamuno’s Oil Wars in the Niger Delta (1849-2009) is not just history >>

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Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy

Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy holds a degree in English language and literary studies. He is a short story writer, copy editor, book reviewer, literary critic, poet, and essayist. He teaches English as a Foreign Language in Hargeisa, Somaliland.

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