In this epic poem, Kwakye (The Executioner's Confession, 2015, etc.) recounts the lives of two Ghanaian twins—one good, one evil—from birth to death.
These are no ordinary twins—they don’t share the same parents, and upon his birth, Kobi the Magician, stands up, cuts his umbilical cord, and informs his mother that he’s self-sufficient and needs her only for spiritual support. Three attending midwives prophesy that he’s destined for greatness and try to introduce him to his twin brother, Paa Quartey. Kobi comes from modest circumstances, however, and Paa’s parents are rich. The senior Quarteys throw the midwives out, after which the women become captives in a forest and perish when voices of the sea entice them into drowning. Meanwhile, young Kobi excels in athletics and his studies, even correcting and teaching his grateful teachers, while young Quartey grows up as a spoiled brat whose doting parents think he’s a prodigy but who flops at everything he tries. After becoming a skillful fisherman, Kobi meets his foreordained twin while delivering fish to his mansion. Despite the parents’ misgivings, the twins bond. Kobi helps his increasingly dissolute brother as he launches a political career. The good twin writes earnest speeches for his brother, even though Paa is “a drinking, partying slob” and “a pampered, and arrogant snob” who revels in drunken orgies and “ménages a beaucoup.” Paa kills a woman in a drunken hit-and-run, and the story ends as a mob storms the twins’ hideout. Kwakye’s imaginative tale takes place in Ghana but could just as easily be set in the United States or any country beset by corruption, any place “where the tall / in intellect are mocked and then entrapped within / manacles of the powerful.” Rhyming quatrains move the story along with wit and grace, and despite the tragic outcome, Kwakye’s writing contains exuberant humor, often sexual or scatological, and cutting insights into human nature, especially the hypocrisy and sycophancy of the hangers-on who feed off the powerful with “faked genuflections and wordy words.”
A darkly humorous modern take on the fleeting triumph of money, corruption, deceit, and evil.