Over the years, Nigerian literature has had works, which treat socio-political conditions of citizens, especially those at the lowest rung of the society. Bolaji J. Apelegan’s Born Under A Bad Sign is a laudable addition to these works that critics refer to as committed literature.
Apelegan’s creative lenses capture the struggles of the ‘literary everyman’, whom, despite being pushed to the brink by the privileged, continues with resolve to survive.
The 167-page novel, which is structurally divided into 14 chapters, is a consciously reflective prose fiction. It muses are drawn from happenings in the society.
Written in pristine language, the novel revolves around the travails of a hardworking, underprivileged David Bolarinwa, whose love-path crosses with Toun, daughter of an influential member of the society’s upper class, Rt. Colonel Morakinyo.
As a result of his relationship with Toun, David finds himself entangled in a tussle constructed out of the rapacious desire of the rich to consolidate their wealth through politics. The odds are, therefore, ominously, stacked against him, as the suspense-filled narrative reveals.
David eventually finds respite and freedom from the seeming dead-end trap of power-seeking Morakinyo through a combination of his lawyer’s brilliance and luck. Larry is also not comfortable with the unfavourable conditions society has placed on the lower class.
The novel’s setting is unmistakably Nigeria. This is deducible from names of the characters and locale. However, the story could have been that of any African society for its commitment and reflection of the misnomer that characterises supposedly democratic governments on the continent.
Thematically, Born Under A Bad Sign succinctly captures the ills of the society, man’s inhumanity to man, repression of the lower class and crass insensitivity of government to basic questions of governance. Importantly, an unmistakable thread that strings the novel together is love. Unyielding in their affection for each other, David and Toun show how love can shred class barriers and create bonds.
Moreover, the eventual return to cordiality of another couple in the novel, Larry and Janet, foregrounds the tenacity with which true love can withstand all barrages thrown at it.
Though, it poignantly reflects conditions of common man, Born Under A Bad Sign shows that there is no perfect work of art.
There is a feeling that the work could have come out better had more editorial checks been carried out on its draft as there are many instances of awkwardly constructed sentences, which often read like transliterations from a local language.
Nevertheless, the novel promises to be a good read to anyone, who desires to see in fiction, the reflection of unavoidable socio-political and economic condition the society has been driven to by its leaders, and also, how love serves to always remind everybody of life’s doggedness in the face of life’s travails.