Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Pâté, Pork and Termite-sandwiches: An Introduction to Negritude

An e-mail from a friend yesterday. He asked if I was gonna be at the Lagos Book and Art Festival (hereinafter referred to as LBAF).
"Hell, yes!" I replied.
"Great. See u saturday. ---- ----- is dying to meet u."

I seat-belt myself tightly and descend into the dark, grinding, screeching depths of my memory bank, wherein I retrieve a line I read very very recently. It's from an article on Naguib Mahfouz by Hisham Matar in the Guardian (UK):

"Margaret Atwood once said that "wanting to meet a writer because you like their books is like wanting to meet a duck because you like pâté".

Which, in my opinion, is the one of the truest things anyone ever said.

PS. When I first read that article, my brain (not me) instantly "translated" it into from "winter-format" into "harmattan-format". This is simply a process by which Africans (and everyone who has never felt winter's bite) africanize Western images and concepts, to aid understanding. It is the process by which winter warms up significantly - and swallows some dust - to become Harmattan. (Another day I shall tell you my ordeals in the days when I devoured Enid Blyton, and struggled with painting un-fogged mental pictures of "ginger-beer" and "Bentleys" and "goblins" and golliwogs"). Medoubts that the word "pâté" would resonate in the culinary schemes of many Nigerians. says :
"13 results for: pate" -- but common sense led me to the one that seemed most appropriate to my query:

"French Cookery. a paste or spread made of puréed or finely chopped liver, meat, fish, game, etc., served as an hors d'oeuvre."

French cookery. Dammit! This is what I africanised it to:

"Wanting to meet a writer because you like their books is like wanting to meet a pig because you like pork".

But, come to think of it, "pork" does not seem "African" enough. For one, it still qualifies as "pate" (from the definition above). I therefore need some more Negritude. Hoola poola mabashay mabashy, moola poola pabashay pabashy... open sesame, O thou sluggish brain! Yes! Thank you, O ancestors, for not disappointing me.

The end result is a sufficiently "african" version of Margaret Atwood's "pâtéy" stuff:

"Wanting to meet a writer because you like their books is like wanting to meet a termite because you like termite-sandwiches".

(Don't gape so! - Africans eat termites, you ignoramus!")


Araceli Aipoh said...

This is a nice one.

On another note:

The only thing I dont like about people I meet (and who meet me) is when they ask me what my book is all about. I hate that part when I have to explain what my book is all about.

BOA said...

Yeah, you're right. If I could explain what my book's all about to a perfect stranger in a mouthful of words, then, it was a waste of bleddy time writing the book. Either that, or the book's far far too long! :)))))

But I think there's something worse than that! Have you ever held a book, and someone came by and collected it from you, so they could look at it, and they take a half-hearted glance at it and go "what's the book all about?" - yet the "book" is in their hands, and it's got a blurb, and a contents page, and it ain't sealed - AND THEY CAN READ!
Now, that's something!

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