By JAPHET ALAKAM
There was a time when traditional storytelling was an essential part of family life. Then, the family storyteller would sit on a stool slightly elevated from the mat on which the story-hearers sit.
But with the advent of television and radio, computers, mobile devices, especially smartphones and tabs, in the mix, the traditional once-upon-a-time stories were relegated to villages, and thus the messages that follow is lost. Though many have tried in their little way to revive the culture, but one man that is bent on doing that in a special way is Frederick Mordi, a past winner of the Commonwealth Short Stories Competition, who recently came out with a new book entitled:The Familiar Stranger and Other Stories. Frederick Mordi, has joined the growing list of Nigerian authors that are championing African literature, with his recently released collection of short stories.
Mordi’s debut anthology, The Familiar Stranger and Other Stories, is a collection of eight short stories that reveal his versatility as a writer.
Mordi in the 135 page book published by New Africa Book Publisher tells the compelling stories of ordinary people trying to make ends meet and the not so ordinary people engaged in power play. In the beautifully designed cover book which features eight stories segmented into eight chapters, the author offers the reader an insight into what life is like in the two settings, weaving the stories around a tapestry of memorable characters and contemporary themes such as morality, integrity and romance in its pristine form. The locations of his stories oscillate largely between serene rustic dwellings and bustling cities.
In chapter one which is where the book got its title, Familiar stranger, the author narrates the story of how a stranger who happens to know the village paid them a visit with bad intention. The story did not just go like that, rather the author fused it with many other incidents that caught the attention of the readers before finally arriving at the visit.
Chapter two, titled The Farmer’s Daughter, tells an interesting account of some of the happenings in the olden days. How a farmer, Mazi Achara refused to send her daughter Obiageli to school, how efforts by the Chief Inspector of Education, Mr Erastus Udoka to make him change his mind failed and how Erastus finally took him to court and won the case.
In The Political Spider, the author recounts the activities of politicians, how they come with sweet words, promise heaven on earth just to win elections.
Money Palaver, a typical scenario that happens in most poor families. Here Pa Azuka has been trying with his little earning to cater for the family, but the wife will not allow him to rest as she keeps on demanding at all times. Things went out of hand when Azuka picked an envelope containing huge sums of money in dollars, an amount that will automatically take them out of poverty, but as a good man instead of keeping it to himself, he decided to give it back to the owner, an action that made the wife and son to unleash all sorts of talk. But , as a man of integrity he returned it and as fate would have it, he handsomely rewarded, an action that made the wife to apologize.
Other short stories in the collection includes, How Oma Got a Wife, The Village Letter Writer, The Doctor’s Wife and The Senator’s Car, one of the highly commended stories that won a prize in the 2004 Commonwealth Short Stories Competition, for the Africa region.
Though, the stories are presented in lucid language, it did not make it to lose their essence. Each plot is simple with logical lessons. Moreover, his use of proverbs and dialogue is also quite commendable.
The stories, locations and texts are good, thereby making them ready scripts for stage performances. There is no dull moment, the author made it so simple, in that it will hold the attention of readers to the end.