By Noel A. Ihebuzor
Flash fiction as a genre is enjoying an amazing lease of life and burst of energy in Nigeria’s literary space. Kemi Ogunniyi’s “My wife’s husband” is one more manifestation of the blossoming creativity in this genre. A tale that probes relationships and loyalty, it packs a punch which is starkly at variance with its brevity.
The first striking thing about this work of art is its title, a title that sets the mind wondering whether one is engaging a work that deals with polyandry or one that suffers from some deliberate aberration in its title. When the reader emerges from the jolt caused by this provocative title, he/she then encounters a tightly told story of love where the lives of the living are tied up closely with the dead. The story of woman still in love with a dead man and the struggles of the man who loves her in the present to relate to her crisis and support her in the process is heart wrenching.
The story is compact and packed with “virtual” detail which the mind of the reader unpacks as he/she reads along. By exercising very controlled parsimony and brevity, Kemi provides space for her reader to fill out the unsaid and the unspoken – the death of a husband, the remarriage of the widow, the unhealthy love of the dead, the hallucination that comes with such obsessive attachment to the past, the long suffering of the present husband and the tragedy of dreams and lives shattered by sudden death. Kemi’s skill in this micro fiction lies partly in the space she allows us for these legitimate inferences. But beyond this, Kemi serves us a micro fiction at its very best – a story with single focus but with multiple subterranean subthemes and streams all ambling along and supporting that single focus. The story’s denouement is startling, plausible and touching. The denouement I have referred to is not one of closure since it leaves the reader still asking more questions and wondering why! All of this is achieved in a prose passage of 309 words using a first person narrative voice where the narrator, despite his pains, manages to remain composed and dignified, thereby revealing his own capacity for empathy and love.
This micro fiction is a must read! May our land continue to witness the flourishing of creative skills of the type we have seen displayed by Kemi and ladies of her generation.