Day of the Orphan by Dr Nat Tanoh

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By Ioana Danaila

Everyone called him Saga, though that was not what his parents had named him. He was fidgeting at his wooden government-issued desk in his very good-for-Africa sized classroom of only 30 students. His teachers were lucky; many had to cope with as many as 100 students or more in each class. (…) Taken separately, the features that made up his face could not be individually tagged as remarkable or chiselled or outstanding. But put together, most people tended to do a pleasant double-take of his appearance. It was as though, united, his individual facial objects blended quite well, but divided, they seemed to pose quite another matter.

In an imaginary country called Zimgania, leading a quiet life, Saga, the son of an ordinary family leading a quiet life, is living his typical adolescent experiences with his friends. However, when he sees his closed ones affected by the conflict and seriously threatened, he decides to join the resistance. When the government in power spreads fear throughout the country and students start to react against the oppression, his fight will take proportions that he would never have imagined.

In this satirical and witty novel, Dr Nat Tanoh gives a vivid picture of what young people’s life is like in oppressive regimes; what their aspirations, dreams, pleasures and fears are; what, finally, their lives look like. The violence with which the political authority unfolds in everyday life and influences human relations makes Saga act.

In his first novel, Dr Nat Tanoh captures a modern, yet tense African world, in which coming of age is never easy; becoming a man overnight is, therefore, not easy for Saga either, especially that love is an inevitable passage to adulthood. And love has Zara’s face, a beautiful, kind and witty image, but also a frightening one in a world in which nothing seems to be what is looks like.

 

It is in this world that Saga’s rite of passage occurs under the form of the resistance to an oppressive regime, but which is never totally shown in a dark or dramatic light. Laughter and puns, as well as dramatic scenes and conflicts, populate Tanoh’s novel to reveal a world much like our own, wherever it may be. - The African Book Review

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