Hello Darlings! I’m finally done reading MEASURING TIME BY HELON HABILA and it was a wonderful experience. I’m not a very fast reader, I love to take time, I enjoy caressing every word and every page with my eyes. I want to remember.
First, let’s talk about Helon Habila. Helon Habila was born in Kaltungo, Gombe State and educated at the University of Jos and University of East Anglia, England. He teaches Creative Writing at the George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia in the USA where he lives with his family. His first book Waiting for an Angel was awarded the Commonwealth Writers Prize for the New Writing (African Region 2003) and the Caine Prize (2001). In 2000 he won the MUSON Poetry Prize. He was the first Chinua Achebe Fellow at Bard College (2005), a William B Quarton fellow at the University of Iowa International Writing Programme and the John Farrar Fellow in Fiction at the 2003 Bread Loaf Writers. He co-edited the British Council’s New Writing 14 with Lavinia Greenlaw. Measuring Time is his second novel.
About Measuring Times…
Mamo and Lamamo are twin brothers whose mother leaves the world as they enter it. They grow up in a small village in Northern Nigeria with a philandering and domineering father, Lamang. Dreaming of escape, they decide to run away to become soldiers. Mamo falls sick and is forced to stay behind. He hears from his brother via sketchy letters, as LaMamo joins a rebel group near the Chad border, trains in Libya, then fights alongside Charles Taylor’s rebels in Liberia.
Still in the village, Mamo explores local history. He is recruited by the traditional ruler, the Mai, to write a ‘true’ history of his people. As Lamang fights for political office and Mamo falls in love, LaMamo risks his life for a cause he no longer believes in. As backdrop, Measuring Time has a cast of memorable characters : the devout Christian Aunt Mariana, lustful widows, a witch, a drunken cousin, two unmarried daughters of the white American missionary and Zara, Mamo’s bold and thoughtful lover.
So what do I think about Measuring Time?
Well I would say it is an OKAY book really. Nothing really made me scream, nothing really pulled at my heart strings except for some deep lines which I would put down below.
I like that it was a story of twin brothers, they reminded me of my younger sisters who are twins.
I like that the book compared historical periods, although I found myself scanning through some of the pages that had to do with that, found them boring.
I love that he infused Chris Okigbo into the story.
I love that Zara was able to pick up courage and leave her husband after years of abuse.
I like that the setting was Gombe State. I’ve always said that being a writer gives you the opportunity to talk about your roots, your home – the place that matters most to you. Most writers have made good use of this – Adichie (Nsukka), Obinna Udenwe (Ebonyi), Measuring Time (Gombe) etc.
While most of us might be familiar and conversant with some of the towns and cities, others may not. I had to really paint the picture of Keti in my minds eye as I read because, reading Measuring Time might be the only opportunity I would have to travel to Gombe.
And that’s the thing with books, where your wallet can’t take you, Books will take you there. Sometimes you may come back happy, fulfilled, with a different understanding and perspective towards life; other times you may come back broken, leaving parts of you there…
Here are some of the lessons I picked from this book :
1) The worst thing you can do is to ever accept anything at face value. Don’t agree with what a man says because he has lived longer than you, or because he claims that it is our way, using history as evidence to back his claim.
2) Some have accused me of promoting Western ways and making young people forget their tradition and culture. They point out to me the evils of modernity – as if tradition itself is devoid of evil. You will come across such people; my advice is, don’t listen to them, get education. If you want to follow tradition, follow it because you understand it, not because some old man told you it is our way.
3) Most of the people who go to church, or go to mosques and synagogues, do so not because they have critically examined their faith and found it better than other faiths, they simply do so for social reasons : some because they marry into it. If you had been born Arab, chances are today you’d be a Muslim. Be wary of those who try to exclude. The truth is complex and various. Exclusion is never the answer. It is what gives rise to fascism and all sorts of racial and religious fundamentalism.
4) The world is as new today as it was when first created, and what we have is not a shortage but a surfeit if things to say.
5) When does one stop growing up and become really grown up?
6) Death is the miracle. A human’s body is designed to survive against the stiffest odds, his cells to repair and regenerate themselves. His body merges effortlessly into its surroundings for protection, and the very atmosphere, the air, is food to his cells. It takes the most extreme kind of violence to kill us and of course old age. It is not life that is miraculous, it is death.
7) All lives are already parallel; each life is comparable to o another life regardless of circumstances. People desire the same things; they only differ in how they allow their aspirations to be modified by the dominant values of their society. All aspire to be happy.
It’s so ironic that Mamo is the one who survives.
I hope you enjoy reading it… Currently reading SECRET LIVES OF BABA SEGI’S WIVES BY LOLA SHONEYIN ; Setting : MY IBADAN!