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Dry Water Seeps Deep In Africa

By Vision Reporter

Added 15th April 2004 03:00 AM

DRY Water is a novel on African politics. African politics then, and now. Nature; unique traits; lessons and warnings. It is a graphic picture of the one game that has, if the author’s depiction is to be believed, achieved worse than what it set out to correct… at least for now.

DRY Water is a novel on African politics. African politics then, and now. Nature; unique traits; lessons and warnings. It is a graphic picture of the one game that has, if the author’s depiction is to be believed, achieved worse than what it set out to correct… at least for now.

Title: Dry Water
Author: Paul B. Vitta
Publisher: Protea Publishing
Pages: 355
Reviewer: Bob G. Kisiki

Dry Water is a novel on African politics. African politics then, and now. Nature; unique traits; lessons and warnings. It is a graphic picture of the one game that has, if the author’s depiction is to be believed, achieved worse than what it set out to correct… at least for now.
This is the story of identical twins Michael and Robert Misana, who are as unlike each other in character as they are similar in appearance. Michael goes to America for university education, while Robert goes to the United Kingdom. Michael returns to Azimia (their home country) to join politics; while Robert takes to teaching at the national university. The politician, in due course, gets into trouble, from which the professor rescues him, only to get deeper into it than he had got his brother from.
Vitta paints a picture of a continent (Africa) that is almost irredeemably into a cycle of political turmoil, from the immediate post-colonial times to date. The continent goes through a wave of military coups and counter-coups; then through a small lapse of organised elected governments trying to promote the rule of law and ending up in mismanagement instead; and back to [military] coups! All through the different laps, there is little repose from chaos. And in seeming agreement with what ex-president of Uganda Amin Dada suggested, Vitta depicts a situation of no permanent friends and no permanent enemies in politics. The man you dreaded most dies in your unsolicited defence; while the one you thought was your bossom friend dons Judas’ cloak and joins the hounds in devouring you, together with all that you represented.
Dry Water’s plot is simple; but not in a sense you want to credit for cleverness. It is the type you can get a protractor and a set square and draw lines through, tracing how it was tailored and dyed. You see an angle, follow it with the certain knowledge that it will go so far; and as sure as there is day and night, you indeed see it end there or at least pass by that point. This is not entirely bad, though, as it makes the story easy to follow. Not everyone goes for the intricate stuff, especially in a novel on the ordinary sadness of political life.
Vitta is a scientist, with a doctorate in Physics. So what? It shows in his diction(too heavy on the big word side); in his love for the philosophical and psychological; in his almost clinical love for detail. Dry Water (just see the title) had the capacity to be a small novel of not more than 200 pages, but because Vitta wants to shade and mark all angles, he goes for the three-dimensional pictures, even in cases where line drawings would have served the same purpose. Which is rather amazing, considering that he manages to put very few characters into the story; the main ones, that is. This economy is clearly a plus, like his humour and evident use of research into facts. Many people usually think that a heavy leaning on facts — naked or clad in layers of icing - makes fiction seem like anthropology.
But if you’re writing on a topic many readers are familiar with, and you insist on making the story read like it is set in ‘the land of make believe’, what do you expect — credibility? Really?
But we must say, for a first novel, it is not one that will send away a publisher from asking for a subsequent title, or a reader from recommending it. I do, with the above remarks in mind.
Ends

Dry Water Seeps Deep In Africa

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