An Orchestra of Minorities
Author: Chigonze Obioma
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publishing Date: January 2019
Cost: Rs. 420 (Paperback), Rs. 277.30 (Kindle Edition), Rs. 2,610 (Hardcover)
The Orchestra of Minorities is set in Umuahia, Nigeria and partly in Northern Cyprus. It follows Chinonso, a hardly surviving poultry farmer who stops a woman from committing suicide. The night changes all their lives, especially Ndali, the woman who does not commit the intended action after much consternation and persuasion by Chinonso. They invariably fall in love after a long and frustrating courting period from the day they met. The protagonist, Chinonso ends up selling all his belongings to pursue higher education abroad to impress, Ndali's parents.
He meets abject suffering in Northern Cyprus after being scammed and misled about his position at university and his return home is further delayed by imprisonment, hence his dream of marrying Ndali is further admonished to the sidelines.
An Orchestra of Minorities is narrated by the chi, or spirit of a young poultry farmer named Chinonso.
It's a very heavy literary work in the sense that it is heavily influenced by Nigerian cosmology, narrated by a kind of guardian spirit. These lines can vouch for that:
“She poked her hand into the dark and secret places of his life and
touched everything in it. And in time, she became the thing his soul had
been yearning after for years with tears in its eyes.”
About the inspiration behind this very unconventional choice of subject, Chigozie Obioma said: “The inspiration for An Orchestra of Minorities came when I went to (the) Turkish Republic of Cyprus in 2007 for college. At the time, I was one of very few African (or black) people on the island. I was the only one who wasn't Turkish in my class. Jay, a young Nigerian man who had recently been deported from Germany, came a year later and his travails and eventual death inspired the character of Chinonso.”
The title 'An Orchestra of Minorities' comes up many times in the story. There are plenty of touching points in the whole book, one of them being- when Chinonso explains to his love Ndali Obialor and how the chickens sing a song of mourning for the one among their flock who has gone; in this case, taken by a hawk. His father always called that an orchestra of minorities. 'He was always saying the chickens know that is all they can do: crying and making the sound ukuuukuu! Ukuuukuu!'
Spanning continents, traversing the earth and cosmic spaces, and told by a narrator who has lived for hundreds of years, the novel is a contemporary twist of Homer's Odyssey. Written in the mythic style of the Igbo literary tradition, Chigozie Obioma weaves a heart-wrenching epic about destiny and determination.
Milestones of the Book:
The book was shortlisted as the finalist in the Man Booker prize 2019.
About the Author:
Chigozie Obioma was born in Akure, Nigeria. His debut novel, The Fishermen, is the winner of the inaugural FT/Oppenheimer Award for Fiction, the NAACP Image Awards for Debut Literary Work, and the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction (Los Angeles Times Book Prizes); and was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize 2015, as well as for several other prizes in the US and UK.
Obioma was named one of Foreign Policy's 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2015. His work has been translated into more than 25 languages and adapted into stage. He is an assistant professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His second novel, An Orchestra of Minorities, was a finalist for the 2019 Booker Prize.