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Pub Date: April 28th, 1987
Publisher: Beech Tree/Morrow

A stylistically brilliant, but dense and demanding first novel about modern Africa by Ghanaian poet Laing. Accra, Ghana, in 1975 is a teeming city of ""sin, juju [witchcraft] and wisdom."" But in this lush land where ""breezes polish souls,"" ""fruit ripens, but the people do not."" The soul of Accra is besieged by encroaching Western values, the ruling Supreme Military Council, a burgeoning national consciousness, and personal greed. ""Almost all Ghanaians,"" a local authority explains, ""would choose to postpone their souls and run after Mercedes Benzes."" The huge (and confusing) cast of characters includes witches, collaborators, academics, priests, prostitutes and madmen. Roughly at the center stand two young men: Kofi Loww, who, paralyzed by his own and his country's identity crises, lives ""on the wandering side of doubt""; and Kojo Okay Pol, ""the monkey who believes he could climb his own tail in any emergency."" The two experience love affairs, run-ins with the military, family estrangements, reunions, and deaths. Meanwhile, townspeople demonstrate against ""the terrible waste of beauty"" only to be placated by the army's meal of corned beef. A bureaucrat finally wheedles the Mercedes Benz he craves, but then smashes it into a cow. Loww eventually marries and returns to the university, but ""the optimist"" Pol's soul, like Ghana, ""remains unfinished."" The prose is energetic and metaphorical, but while it successfully evokes the African psyche, it also renders some of the story mechanics and specifics unclear. Still, there is strong, original talent here.