#Article (Archive)

Title: Measuring Time

Oct 31, 2008, 7:11 AM

Author: Helon Habila

Publisher and Date of Publication: Penguin Books; 2008 Paperback; 383 pages

Mamo and LaMamo were both twins. Their mother passed away at their birth. And they were raised by their aunt Marina, their father's sister. Their domineering and randy father had little or no time at all for them. So when they came of age, they decided to run away from the restrictions of village life at Keti and ftom their father's oppressive control. But at the point of departure, only LaMamo succeeded in getting away. Mamo, due to his ill health, had to go back to the village. It was at this point that their lives diverged. Taking to a life of learning, the mild and reserved Mamo taught at the village school, where his uncle Iliya was the school head. As a history teacher, he read voraciously, devouring any and every book he could lay his hands on. His reserved and refined nature so impressed Zara, a cosmopolitan lady from the city who came to teach in the village, that they both fell in love. Under Zara's prodding, Mamo wrote a review of the history of Keti, which was published in an international journal. The success of the publication of his essay won him worldwide fame. It was this fame that brought him to the attention of the Waziri, who then arranged for Mamo to be appointed secretary at the MaiPalace. In addition, the Waziri commissioned to write the biography of the Mai. During his interaction with the political elite, he came face to face with the rottenness of the system. He saw with his own eyes the depth of corruption in the system. He also saw it worked to benefit only a clique of ravenous and unconscionable politicians and their military backers. He did his best to fight against the corrupt elements, especially Waziri. By contrast, his twin brother LaMoma had left for Liberia to fight in the ECOMOG. Unlike his brother, he learned about life from the trenches of war. Hardened by his difficulty, LaMoma eventually took time off to study up to a diploma level. He met and fell in love with Bintou, a girl he later married. He returned home with one eye, having lost the other in the battlefield. After his death, Bintou who was already pregnant with his baby came to Keti, where he was made welcome by Mamo. This is a poignant story of mixed fortune and of brotherly love and obligation. Habila's ability to concoct such an epic tale is commendable.


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