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An Orchestra of Minorities
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“It is more than a superb and tragic novel; it’s a historical treasure.”-Boston Globe
Set on the outskirts of Umuahia, Nigeria and narrated by a chi, or guardian spirit, An Orchestra of Minorities tells the story of Chinonso, a young poultry farmer whose soul is ignited when he sees a woman attempting to jump from a highway bridge. Horrified by her recklessness, Chinonso joins her on the roadside and hurls two of his prized chickens into the water below to express the severity of such a fall. The woman, Ndali, is stopped her in her tracks.
Bonded by this night on the bridge, Chinonso and Ndali fall in love. But Ndali is from a wealthy family and struggles to imagine a future near a chicken coop. When her family objects to the union because he is uneducated, Chinonso sells most of his possessions to attend a college in Cyprus. But when he arrives he discovers there is no place at the school for him, and that he has been utterly duped by the young Nigerian who has made the arrangements… Penniless, homeless, and furious at a world which continues to relegate him to the sidelines, Chinonso gets further away from his dream, from Ndali and the farm he called home.
Spanning continents, traversing the earth and cosmic spaces, and told by a narrator who has lived for hundreds of years, the novel is a contemporary twist of Homer’s Odyssey. Written in the mythic style of the Igbo literary tradition, Chigozie Obioma weaves a heart-wrenching epic about destiny and determination.
I stand before you here in the magnificent court of Bechukwu, in Eluigwe, the land of eternal, luminous light, where the perpetual song of the flute serenades the air—
Like other guardian spirits, I have gone to uwa in many cycles of reincarnations, inhabiting a freshly created body each time—
I have come in haste, soaring untrammeled like a spear through the immense tracts of the universe because my message is urgent, a matter of life and death—
I stand knowing that a chi is supposed to testify before you if his host is dead and his host’s soul has ascended into Benmuo, that liminal space crowded with spirits and discarnate beings of every hue and scale. It is only then that you request that guardian spirits come to your dwelling place, this grand celestial court, and ask you to grant the souls of our hosts safe passage into Alandiichie, the habitation of the ancestors—
We make this intercession because we know that a man’s soul can return to the world in the form of an onyeuwa, to be reborn, only if that soul has been received in the domain of the ancestors—
Chukwu, creator of all, I concede that I have done something out of the ordinary by coming here now to testify while my host is still alive—
But I am here because the old fathers say that we bring only the blade sharp enough to cut the firewood to the forest. If a situation deserves exigent measures, then one must give it that—
They say that dust lies on the ground and stars lie in the sky. They do not mix—
They say that a shadow may be fashioned from a man, but a man does not die because a shadow has sprung from him—
I come to intercede on behalf of my host because the kind of thing he has done is that for which Ala, the custodian of the earth, must seek retribution—
For Ala forbids that a person should harm a pregnant woman, whether man or beast—
For the earth belongs to her, the great mother of mankind, the greatest among all creatures, second only to you, whose gender or kind no man or spirit knows—
I have come because I fear that she will raise her hand against my host, who is known in this cycle of life as Chinonso Solomon Olisa—
This is why I have hastened here to testify of all I have witnessed and to persuade you and the great goddess that if what I fear has happened is true, to let it be understood that he has committed this great crime in error, unknowingly—
Although I will relate most things in my own words, they will be true because he and I are one. His voice is my voice. To speak of his words as if he were distinct from me is to render my own words as if they were spoken by another—
You are the creator of the universe, patron of the four days—Eke, Orie, Afor, and Nkwo—that make up the Igbo week—
To you the old fathers ascribed names and honorifics too numerous to count: Chukwu, Egbunu, Oseburuwa, Ezeuwa, Ebubedike, Gaganaogwu, Agujiegbe, Obasidinelu, Agbatta-Alumalu, Ijango-ijango, Okaaome, Akwaakwuru, and many more—
I stand here before you, as bold as a king’s tongue, to plead my host’s cause, knowing that you will hear my voice—
The Woman on the Bridge
CHUKWU, if one is a guardian spirit sent for the first time to inhabit a host who will come into the world in Umuahia, a town in the land of the great fathers, the first thing that strikes the spirit would be the immensity of the land. As the guardian spirit descends with the reincarnating body of the new host towards the land, what reveals itself to the eye astonishes. Suddenly, as if some primordial curtain has been peeled off, one is exposed to an interminable stretch of leaf-green vegetation. As one draws closer to Umuahia, one is enticed by the elements around the land of the fathers: the hills, the thick, great forest of Ogbuti-ukwu, a forest as old as the first man who hunted in it. The early fathers had been told that signs of the cosmic explosion that birthed the world could be seen here and that from the beginning, when the world was partitioned into sky, water, forest, and land, the Ogbuti forest had become a country, a country more expansive than any poem about it. The leaves of the trees bear in them a provincial history of the universe. But beyond the exaltation of the great forest, one becomes even more fascinated with the many water bodies, the biggest of which is the Imo River and its numerous tributaries.
That river weaves itself around the forest in a complex circuit comparable only to that of human veins. One finds it in one part of the city spouting like a deep gash. One travels on the same road for a short distance and it appears—as if out of nowhere—behind a hill or an enormous gorge. Then there, between the thighs of the valleys, it is flowing again. Even if we miss it at first, one only needs to tread past Bende towards Umuahia, through the Ngwa villages, before a small, silent tributary reveals its seductive face. The river has a distinct place in the mythologies of the people because in their universe, water is supreme. They know that all rivers are maternal and therefore are capable of birthing things. This river birthed the city of Imo. Through its neighboring city runs the Niger, a greater river which was itself the stuff of legend. Long ago, the Niger overran its boundaries in its relentless journey and met another, the Benue, in an encounter that forever changed the history of the people and the civilizations around both rivers.
Egbunu, the testimony for which I have come to your luminous court this night began at the Imo River nearly seven years ago. My host had traveled to Enugu that morning to replenish his stock, as he often did. It had rained in Enugu the previous night, and water was everywhere—trickling down from the roofs of buildings, in potholes on the roads, on the leaves of trees, dripping from orbs of spiderwebs—and a slight drizzle was on the faces and clothes of people. He went about the market in high spirit, his trousers rolled up over his ankles so as not to stain the hems with dirty water as he walked from shed to shed, store to store. The market seethed with people, as it always was even in the time of the great fathers when the market was the center of everything. It was here that goods were exchanged, festivals were held, and negotiations between villages were conducted. Throughout the land of the fathers, the shrine of Ala, the great mother, was often located close to the market. In the imagination of the fathers, the market was also the one human gathering that attracted the most vagrant spirits—akaliogolis, amosu, tricksters, and various vagabond discarnate beings. For in the earth, a spirit without a host is nothing. One must inhabit a physical body to have any effect on the things of the world. And so these spirits are in constant search for vessels to occupy, and insatiable in their pursuit of corporeality. They must be avoided at all costs. I once saw such a being inhabit the body of a dead dog in desperation. And it managed, by some alchemical means, to stir this carrion to life and make it amble a few steps before leaving the dog to lie dead again in the grass. It was a fearful sight. This is why it is considered ill advised for a chi to leave the body of its host in such a place or to step far away from a host who is asleep or in an unconscious state. Some of these discarnate beings, especially the evil spirits, even sometimes try to overpower a present chi, or ones who have gone out on a consultation on behalf of their hosts. This is why you, Chukwu, warn us against such journeys, especially at night! For when a foreign spirit embodies a person, it is difficult to get it out! This is why we have the mentally ill, the epileptic, men with abominable passions, murderers of their own parents and others! Many of them have become possessed by strange spirits and their chi are rendered homeless and reduced to following the host about, pleading or trying to negotiate—often fruitlessly—with the intruder. I have seen it many times.
When my host returned to his van, he recorded in his big foolscap notebook that he’d bought eight adult fowls—two roosters and six hens—a bag of millet, a half bag of broiler feed, and a nylon full of fried termites. He’d paid twice the usual price of chickens for one, a wool-white rooster with a long tapering comb and plush of feathers. When the seller handed him the fowl, tears clouded his eyes. For a moment, the seller and even the bird in his hands appeared as a shimmering illusion. The seller watched him in what seemed to be astonishment, perhaps wondering why my host had been so moved by the sight of the chicken. The man did not know that my host was a man of instinct and passion. And that he had bought this one bird for the price of two because the bird bore an uncanny resemblance to the gosling he had owned as a child, which he’d loved many years ago, a bird that changed his life.
Ebubedike, after he bought the prized white rooster, he embarked on the journey back to Umuahia with delight. Even when it struck him that he’d spent a longer time in Enugu than he’d intended and had not fed the rest of his flock for much of that day, it did not dampen his spirit. Not even the thought of them engaging in a mutiny of angry cackles and crows, as they often did when hungry, the kind of noise that even distant neighbors complained about, troubled him. On this day, in contrast to most other days, anytime he encountered a police checkpoint, he paid the officers handily. He did not argue that he had no money, as he often did. Instead, before he came to their stations, where they had laid down logs studded with protruding nails to force the traffic to stop, he stretched his hand through the window clutching a wad of notes.
GAGANAOGWU, for a long time my host raced through rural roads that tracked through villages, between tumuli and mounds of the ancient fathers, through roads flanked by rich farmlands and deep bushes as the sky slowly darkened. Insects dashed against the windshield and burst like miniature fruits until the glass was covered with small mucks of liquefied insects. Twice he had to stop and wipe the mess off with a rag. But soon after he began again, the insects would rage against the pane with renewed force. By the time he arrived at the boundary of Umuahia the day had aged, and the lettering on the rusting pole with the WELCOME TO ABIA, GOD’S OWN STATE sign was barely visible. His stomach had become taut from having gone a whole day without eating. He stopped a short distance from the bridge that ran over the Amatu River—a branch of the great Imo River—and pulled up behind a semi whose back was covered with a tarp.
Once he stopped the engines, he heard a clatter of feet in the van bed. He climbed down and stepped over the drainage ditch that encircled the city. He walked over to the clearing where streetside sellers sat on stools under small fabric awnings on the other side of the drainage, their tables lit with lanterns and candles.
The eastern darkness had fallen, and the road ahead and behind was blanketed in a quilt of gloom, when he returned to the van with a bunch of bananas, a pawpaw, and a polythene bag full of tangerines. He put on his headlights and drove back onto the highway, his new flock squawking in the back of the van. He was eating the bananas when he arrived at the bridge over the Amatu River. He’d heard only the previous week that—in this most fecund of rainy seasons—the river had overflowed and drowned a woman and her child. He didn’t usually put stock in the rumors of mishaps that passed around the city like a weighted coin, but this story had stayed in his mind for some reason which even I, his chi, could not understand. He was barely at the middle of the bridge thinking of this mother and child when he saw a car parked by the railings, one of its doors flung wide open. At first all he saw was the car, its dark interior and a speck of light reflected on the window of the driver’s side. But as he shifted his gaze, he caught the terrifying vision of a woman attempting to jump over the bridge.
Agujiegbe, how uncanny that my host had been thinking for days about a woman who’d drowned, and suddenly he found himself before another who had climbed one ledge up the rails, her body bent over as she attempted to throw herself into the river. And once he saw her, he was stirred within. He pulled the van to a halt, jumped out, and ran forward into the darkness, shouting, “No, no, don’t. Please, don’t! Don’t do that. Biko, eme na!”
It seemed at once that this unexpected intervention startled the woman. She turned in swift steps, her body swaying lightly as she fell backwards to the ground in obvious terror. He rushed forward to help her up. “No, Mommy, no, please!” he said as he bent over.
“Leave me!” the woman cried at his approach. “Leave me. Go away.”
Egbunu, rejected, he drew back in frantic steps, his hands raised in the strange way the children of the old fathers use to signify surrender or defeat, and said, “I stop, I stop.” He turned his back to her, but he could not bring himself to leave. He feared what she would do if he left, for he—himself a man of much sorrow—knew that despair was the disease of the soul, able to destroy an already battered life. So he faced her again, his hands lower, stretched before him like staffs. “Don’t, Mommy. Nothing is enough for somebody to die like that. Nothing, Mommy.”
The woman struggled up to her feet slowly, first kneeling, then raising her upper body, all the while with her eyes fixed on him and saying, “Leave me. Leave me.”
He glimpsed her face now in the pupillary light of his van. It was full of fear. Her eyes seemed somewhat swollen from what must have been long hours of crying. He knew at once that this was a deeply wounded woman. For every man who has himself suffered hardship or witnessed it in others can recognize its marks on the face of another from a distance. As the woman stood trembling in the light, he wondered whom she may have lost. Perhaps one of her parents? Her husband? Her child?
“I will leave you alone now,” he said, lifting his hands up again. “I go leave you alone. I swear to God who made me.”
He turned towards his van, but because of the gravity of the sorrow he’d seen in her, even the momentary shuffling of his feet away from her seemed like a grievous act of unkindness. He stopped, conscious of the rushed sinking in the pit of his stomach and the audible anxiety of his heart. He faced her again.
“But Mommy,” he said. “Don’t jump it, you hear?”
In haste, he unlocked the back of the van and then unlatched one of the cages, and with his eyes looking through the window, whispering to himself that she should not go, he took two chickens by their wings, one in each hand, and hurried down.
He found the woman standing where he’d left her, looking in the direction of his vehicle, seemingly transfixed. Although a guardian spirit cannot see the future and thus cannot fully know what its hosts will do—Chukwu, you alone and the great deities possess the spirit of foresight and may bequeath certain dibias this gift—I could sense it. But because you caution us, guardian spirits, not to interfere in every affair of our hosts, to allow man to execute his will and be man, I sought not to stop him. Instead, I simply put the thought in his mind that he was a lover of birds, one whose life has been transformed by his relationship with winged things. I flashed a stirring image of the gosling he once owned into his mind that instant. But it was of little effect, for in moments like this, when a man becomes overcome by emotion, he becomes Egbenchi, the stubborn kite which does not listen or even understand whatever is spoken to it. It moves on to wherever it wishes and does whatever it desires.
“Nothing, nothing should make someone fall inside the river and die. Nothing.” He raised the chickens above his head. “This is what will happen if somebody fall inside there. The person will die, and no one can see them again.”
He lunged towards the rails, his hands heavy with the birds, which cackled in high-pitched tones and stirred with agitation in his grip. “Even these fowls,” he said again, and flung them over the bridge into the gloom.
For a moment, he watched the birds struggle against the thermal, whipping their wings violently against the wind as they battled desperately for their lives but failed. A feather landed on the skin of his hand, but he beat it off with such haste and violence that he felt a quick pain. Then he heard the sucking sound of the chickens’ contact with the waters, followed by vain plonks and splashes of sound. It seemed the woman listened, too, and in listening, he felt an indescribable bond—as if they had both become lone witnesses to some inestimable secret crime. He stood there until he heard the woman’s gasps. He looked up at her, then back at the waters hidden from his sight by the darkness, and back at her again.
“You see,” he said, pointing at the river as the wind groaned on like a cough caught in the dry throat of the night. “That is what will happen if somebody fall inside there.”
The first car to approach the bridge since his own arrived with cautious speed. It stopped a few paces from them and honked, then the driver said something he could not hear but which had been spoken in the White Man’s language and which I, his chi, had heard: “I hope you are not hoodlums oh!” Then the car drove away, gathering speed.
“You see,” he repeated.
Once the words had left his mouth, he resolved into a calm, as it often happens at such times when a man, having done something out of the ordinary, retreats into himself. All he could think of was to leave the place, and this thought came upon him with an overwhelming passion. And I, his chi, flashed the thought in his mind that he’d done enough, and that it was best he left. So he rushed back to his van and started it amidst the mutiny of voices from the back. In the side mirror, the vision of the woman on the bridge flashed like an invoked spirit into the field of light, but he did not stop, and he did not look back.
AGUJIEGBE, the great fathers say that to get to the top of a hill, one must begin from its foot. I have come to understand that the life of a man is a race from one end to the other. That which came before is a corollary to that which follows it. This is the reason people ask the question “Why?” when something that confounds them happens. Most of the time, even the deepest secrets and motives of the hearts of men can be uncovered if one probes deeper. Thus, Chukwu, to intercede on behalf of my host, I must suggest that we trace the beginning of everything to the harsh years preceding that night on the bridge.
His father had died only nine months earlier, leaving him with a pain that was exquisite beyond anything he’d ever felt. It may have been a little different had he been with others, as he was when he lost his mother and when he lost his gosling and when his sister left home. But upon his father’s passing, there was no one. His sister, Nkiru, having eloped with an older man and feeling her conscience seared by their father’s death, distanced herself even more. Perhaps she’d done this for fear my host might blame her for their father’s death. The days that followed the demise were of utmost darkness. The agwu of pain afflicted him night and day and made of him an empty house in which traumatic memories of his family lurked like rodents. In the mornings on most days, he’d wake up smelling his mother’s cooking. And sometimes during the day, his sister would reveal herself in vivid pictures, as if she’d been merely hidden all along by a drawn curtain. At night, he’d feel the presence of his father so intensely he’d sometimes become convinced that his father was there. “Papa! Papa!” he’d call into the darkness, turning about in frantic steps. But all he’d get back would be silence, a silence so strong it would often restore his confidence in reality.
He walked through the world vertiginously, as if on a tightrope. His vision became one from which he could see nothing. Nothing gave him comfort, not even the music of Oliver De Coque, which he’d play on his big cassette player most evenings or while working at the yard. Even his fowls were not spared his grief. He tended to them with less care, mostly feeding them once a day and sometimes forgetting to give them food altogether. Their riotous squawking in protest was what often stirred him in those times, forcing him to feed them. His watch over his flock was distracted, and many times hawks and kites preyed on them.
How did he eat in those days? He simply fed off the small farm, a plot of land that stretched from the front of the house to the place where the motor road began, harvesting tomatoes, okro, and peppers. The corn his father had planted he let wilt and die, and he allowed a collection of insects to foment the resultant decay as long as they did not also trample on the other crops. When what was left of the farm could not meet his needs, he shopped at the market near the big roundabout, using as few words as necessary. And in time he became a man of silence who went days without speaking—not even to his flock, whom he often addressed as comrades. He bought onions and milk from the provisions shed nearby and sometimes ate at the canteen across the street, Madam Comfort’s restaurant. He hardly spoke there, either, but merely observed the people around him with a strained mercurial awe, as if in their seeming peacefulness they were all renegade spirits come into his world through a back door.
Soon, Oseburuwa, as is often the case, he became one with sorrow so much that he resisted all help. Not even Elochukwu, the only friend he kept after he left school, could comfort him. He stayed away from Elochukwu, and once Elochukwu rode his motorcycle up to the front of the compound, knocked on the door, and shouted my host’s name to see if he was in. But he pretended he was not in the house. Elochukwu, perhaps suspicious that his friend was in, rang my host’s phone. My host let it ring on until Elochukwu, maybe concluding that he was indeed away, left. He refused all pleas from his uncle, his father’s only surviving sibling, to come and stay in Aba. And when the older man persisted, he turned off his phone and did not turn it on for two months, until he woke up one day to the sound of his uncle driving onto his compound.
His uncle had come angry, but when he found his nephew so broken, so lean, so emasculated, he was moved. The old man wept in the presence of my host. The sight of this man whom he had not seen in years weeping for him changed something in my host that day. He discovered that a hole had been bored into his life. And that evening, as his uncle snored, stretched out on one of the sofas in the sitting room, it struck him that the hole became evident after his mother died. It was true, Gaganaogwu. I, his chi, was there when he saw his mother being taken out of the hospital, dead shortly after delivering his sister. This was twenty-two years ago, in the year the White Man refers to as 1991. He was only nine at the time, too young to accept what the universe had given him. The world he’d known up till that night suddenly became reticulated and could not be straightened again. His father’s devotion, trips to Lagos, excursions to the zoo in Ibadan and the amusement parks in Port Harcourt, even playing with the video-game consoles—none worked. Nothing his father did repaired the chink in his soul.
Towards the end of that year, around when the cosmic spider of Eluigwe spins its lush web over the moon the thirteenth time, increasingly desperate to restore his son’s well-being, his father took him to his village. He’d remembered that my host had been enticed by stories of how he’d hunted wild geese in the Ogbuti forest as a little boy during the war. So he took my host to hunt geese in the forest, an account of which I will give you in due course, Chukwu. It was here that he caught the gosling, the bird that would change his life.
His uncle, seeing the state my host was in, stayed with him for four days instead of one, as he’d planned. The older man cleaned the house, tended the poultry, and drove him to Enugu to buy feed and supplies. During those days, Uncle Bonny, despite stammering, filled my host’s mind with words. Most of what he said pivoted around the perils of loneliness and the need for a woman. And his words were true, for I had lived among mankind long enough to know that loneliness is the violent dog that barks interminably through the long night of grief. I have seen it many times.
“Nonso, ih if y ou don’t ge get y-y your self a-a wife s-su su soon,” Uncle Bonny said the morning he would leave, “your aunt a-ah-ah me wi-will h-ave to get y-y-ou one our ourself.” His uncle shook his head. “Be-be-be-because because you can’t live like this.”
So strong were his uncle’s words that, after he left, my host began to think of new things. As if the eggs of his healing had hatched in secret places, he found himself craving something he had not had in a long time: the warmth of a woman. This desire drew his attention away from thoughts of his loss. He began to go out more, to lurk around near the Federal Government Girls College. At first, he watched the girls from the roadside canteens with fitful curiosity. He paid attention to their plaited hair, their breasts, and their outward features. As he developed interest, he reached out to one, but she rebuffed him. My host, who’d been molded by circumstances into a man of little confidence, decided he would not try a second time. I flashed in his thought that it was hardly possible to get a woman at the first try. But he paid no heed to my voice. A few days after he was turned down, he inquired at a brothel.
Chukwu, the woman into whose bed he was admitted was twice his age. She wore loose hair, the kind of which was known among the great mothers. Her face was painted with a powdery substance that gave it delicacy which a man might find inviting. She looked by the shape of her face like Uloma Nezeanya, a woman who, two hundred forty-six years ago, was betrothed to an old host (Arinze Iheme) but disappeared before the wine-carrying ceremony, taken away by Aro slave raiders.
Before his eyes, the woman stripped and bared a body that was buxom and attractive. But when she asked him to climb her, he could not. It was, Egbunu, an extraordinary experience, the like of which I had never seen before. For suddenly, the great erection he’d sustained for days was gone the very moment it could be satiated. He was seized by a sudden acute self-awareness of himself as a novice, unskilled in the art of sex. With this came a flurry of images—of his mother in the hospital bed, of the gosling perched precariously on a fence, and of his father in the hard grip of rigor mortis. He trembled, pulled himself slowly from the bed, and begged to leave.
“What? You wan just waste your money like that?” the woman said.
- "This is a book that wrenches the heart with its story of love, migration and inner turmoil, told with remarkable language from start to finish. Narrated by a cast of characters from Igbo spiritual tradition, the story of Chinonso, the chicken farmer begins and ends with tragedy. But his quest for a life with Ndali, the woman he loves, drives him to seek status and wealth as an African migrant in Europe, to transcend Nigeria's formidable class boundaries. The spirits look down on these human dramas of small town Nigeria and reveal the rich complexity of another realm along the way. Obioma's is a tale of Odyssian proportions that makes the heart soar, and a crucial journey into a heartache that is both mythical and real. A stunning book."—Booker Prize 2019 Jury citation
- "Gorgeously written, with a twist of magical realism and a heavy dose of sad reality."—Washington Post
- "Transcendent . . . Chigozie Obioma's second novel is a rare treasure: a book that deepens the mystery of the human experience."—Seattle Times
- "Igbo and Greek mythology are braided into this heartbreaking and utterly unique novel"—Boris Kacka, Vulture
- "Obioma's frenetically assured second novel is a spectacular artistic leap forwards . . . [it is] a linguistically flamboyant, fast-moving, fatalistic saga of one man's personal disaster . . . Few contemporary novels achieve the seductive panache of Obioma's heightened language, with its mixture of English, Igbo and colourful African-English phrases, and the startling clarity of the dialogue. The story is extreme; yet its theme is a bid for mercy for that most fragile of creatures - a human" —Eileen Battersby, Guardian
- "Brilliantly intertwining the human and spirit worlds. A major new African writer."—Salman Rushdie
- "A mystical epic...confirms his place among a raft of literary stars." —Time
- "Obioma writes with an exigent precision that makes AN ORCHESTRA OF MINORITIES feel at once timely and speculative. The novel aches with Chinonso. His triumphs are rare and hard-won. Obioma compels the reader to root for him, to see the poor chicken farmer's story as an epic."—The Atlantic
"It is more than a superb and tragic novel; it's a historical treasure."
- "It's a story as old as the epic."—New York Times Book Review
- "Obioma's novel remains interesting and important"—Minneapolis Star Tribune
- "The chances that Chigozie Obioma's second novel would match, let alone surpass, "The Fishermen," were slim. Happily, his follow-up, AN ORCHESTRA OF MINORITIES, is a triumph. . . . In an era of copycats, "An Orchestra of Minorities" is an unusual and brilliantly original book."—The Economist
- "His is a bracing and searing work that compresses an ordinary life into an epic journey."—Houston Chronicle
- "A tale of mythic nature and epic scale at times recalling Homer's Odyssey-a sweeping story about destiny and the power of choice."—Vanity Fair
- "Destined to become a classic." —Hello Giggles
- "A multicultural fable that heralds a new master of magical realism. . . . It's a special writer who can take the familiar tropes found within AN ORCHESTRA OF MINORITIESand infuse them with new life, transforming them into something exciting and unexpected. Happily, Obioma is exactly such an author."—Bookpage, starred review
- A deeply original book that will have readers laughing at, angry with, and feeling compassion for a determined hero who endeavors to create his own destiny.—Kirkus, starred review
- "Obioma overwhelms readers with a visceral sense of Chinonso's humanity, his love, his rage, and his despair as he struggles between fate and self-determination."—Library Journal, starred review
- "Obioma alchemizes his contemporary love story into a mythic quest enhanced by Igbo cosmology. . . . Magnificently multilayered, Obioma's sophomore title proves to be an Odyssean achievement."—Booklist, starred reviews
"Unforgettable second novel . . . Obioma's novel is electrifying, a meticulously crafted character drama told with emotional intensity. His invention, combining Igbo folklore and Greek tragedy in the context of modern Nigeria, makes for a rich, enchanting experience."
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
- "epically imaginative, heartbreaking, and worth the read."—Los Angeles Review of Books
- "a passionate argument for the enduring vitality of indigenous culture."—New Yorker
- "Obioma's figurative language is rich and vivid... Obioma's absorbing tragicomedy painfully probes the perils of victimhood."—Gulf New Entertainment
- "This is a powerful, multifarious novel that underlines Obioma's status as one of the most exciting voices in modern African literature."—Financial Times
- "An ambitious and immersive tale about love and sacrifice, told by an ancient spirit. A bold new novel from an exciting young writer."—Brit Bennett, New York Times bestselling author of The Mothers
- "Chigozie Obioma is a gifted and original storyteller. His masterful new novel An Orchestra of Minorities is remarkable for its exploration of universal concepts to do with destiny, free will and luck."—Jennifer Clement, author of Gun Love and President of PEN International
- "Chigozie Obioma is an audacious and ambitious writer, and quite adept at binding the reader to the irresistible spells he casts. An Orchestra of Minorities is a magisterial accomplishment by any measure, and particularly impressive for the way Obioma orchestrates a tableau in which humans and spirits must interact in a complex, emotionally rich-veined story. Few writers can match Obioma's astonishing range, his deft facility for weaving a mesmeric and triumphant fictive canvas in which-reminiscent of the ancient masters-a cohort of gods presides over and negotiates the fates of humans."—Okey Ndibe, author of Foreign Gods, Inc.
- "Chigozie Obioma pens a deeply empathetic, complex, and gut-wrenchingly human narrative that captures the heart and soul. An Orchestra of Minorities stays with you. With remarkable style and compelling language, he explores what it means to experience blinding love and devastating loss. A truly gifted writer, Obioma has proven yet again, that he's a literary treasure."—Nicole Dennis-Benn, award-winning author of Here Comes the Sun
- On Sale
- Oct 8, 2019
- Page Count
- 464 pages
- Back Bay Books