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Ekomo by María Nsue Angüe

Ekomo - María Nsue Angüe

Spanish review to come

This is an interesting short novel, set in Equatorial Guinea and as far as I know, only available in Spanish. It reminds me of a lot of African fiction centered around the lives of people living in traditional rural communities: Mema, The Dark Child, and The Purple Violet of Oshaantu are similar choices available in English.

This book is narrated by a young woman named Nnanga, who is married to the eponymous Ekomo. The book begins with an omen of imminent death in their village, and follows Nnanga's story in a generally linear fashion, though there are sizeable flashbacks to her childhood and youth as a dancer, and some detours to relate legends and marital disputes in the village. It’s a colorful story, with forbidden romance, kidnapping of brides, a nude dancing ritual, and a journey to a medicine man, and the plot consistently kept me engaged. Until the end it felt mostly upbeat; at the end I wasn’t entirely sure whether the author meant to criticize cultural practices that harm women, or the introduction of foreign ideas into Africa. (The introduction writer focuses on the latter, but then he’s a man.)

But it’s fair to say that I’m not the best reviewer for this book, because I didn’t entirely understand it. Spanish is not my first language, and because the language of the book is relatively simple, I didn’t spend much time looking up words as I went. The copyediting could use some work: there are a lot of typos, and the lack of section breaks for major topical shifts may create confusion.

Overall though, an interesting book that immerses the reader in the narrator’s life in rural Equatorial Guinea. I wish I'd understood it a bit better.