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Babi Yar Symphony

G. D. Nyamndi

Publication Year: 2008

This unique work lifts the African question out of the dust. Against the backdrop of prison life, it explores the complex reality of being an African in today's world. Through the tight sensitivity and illuminating knowledge of its two principal characters, themselves victims of misplaced justice, greed and lust, it captures the pain and sadness that almost always comes in the wake of betrayal and egotism. The work's message is strong, and is delivered with equal strength by characters whose individual convictions also sway us to their side. We have here a new, powerful shaft of light on the landscape of recent African writing.

Published by: African Books Collective

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Chapter 1

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pp. 1-

When she knocked she did not remain planted in the doorway but withdrew to the side so that anyone coming to open would have to stick out their heads to see the visitor. Kunsona opened the door and went outside, and saw a woman...

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Chapter 2

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pp. 2-4

They came for him that Sunday. He had just returned from a night’s vigil on the mountain. He knew they would, sooner or later. They’d shown signs of late that they were interested in him. Nothing out of the ordinary, really. Whenever your time was...

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Chapter 3

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pp. 5-6

Vigil… How does one keep vigil, and for what? And yet we must. Whether on the mountain top as he did, or in the crumbling smoke-filled drinking places teeming with harlots and drunks, or inside the forest where...

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Chapter 4

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pp. 7-9

He was resting on his bed, in the book of Maccabees, when two policemen, one tall, the other short, knocked at the door. Bertha had carried his little girl to town, so he was all alone. He did not rush to open, but pressed on...

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Chapter 5

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pp. 10-15

Levi was trailing his right leg to and fro on the ground and causing a light blanket of dust - mud baked by the sun and beaten into flower under the bare feet of prisoners and the thick-soled boots of warders – to rise to ankle level...

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Chapter 6

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pp. 16-21

They were not yet convicted, so they were quartered in conditions slightly different from those of the other detainees. Books and newspapers were delivered to them intermittently, even if under very strict censorship especially of content...

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Chapter 7

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pp. 22-25

When the note came Shechem was taking his own turn at cleaning the toilets, which required pulling the overflowing buckets from under the plank stands on which users squatted, and emptying them into the ravine two hundred metres away towards the southern turret...

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Chapter 8

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pp. 26-34

Shechem brought down the manuscript from the wrack three days after the date of trial was handed down to them. This was the first time he was touching the papers since Bertha handed them to him on her first visit more than eight months ago...

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Chapter 9

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pp. 35-39

Levi and his friend reported for The Chariot Inquirer, the only daily in the town. The former had been with the paper for eight years, the latter for slightly more, maybe nine. Shechem had no formal training as a journalist...

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Chapter 10

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pp. 40-47

On the day of the trial they were loaded onto a Renault lorry – Levi, Shechem and thirty other detainees whose hearings were scheduled for the same day. The lorry was yet unknown to people in Tole as it was only three days old...

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Chapter 11

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pp. 48-51

The detainees did not hear from the outside world again for another three months, until the day Ekobena came to tell Levi that he’d been admitted to bail. Justice Dan Mowena had seen to it himself and had commissioned the Barrister to “inform the other one in no unclear...

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Chapter 12

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pp. 52-58

The Prison Superintendent declared an open day in Sanko, a holiday of sorts during which inmates could visit with other inmates and outside visitors were allowed more time with their imprisoned ones in the open yard. This was the first such day in their now close to one...

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Chapter 13

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pp. 59-67

To Shechem, returning from Teacher Efuet’s cell was like returning from a pilgrimage. What he’d just gone through filled him with spiritual nourishment of the kind that transformed Sanko – cells, grounds, warders, inmates...

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Chapter 14

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pp. 68-70

The following day at supper eight inmates were reported missing. Their absence descended on the meal with more devastating effect than the weevils they had protested against and which the Superintendent had promised to remove from the beans...

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Chapter 15

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pp. 71-79

“He nearly succeeded,” the tall warder said, blowing his gun, then went into convulsive laughter that lasted at least two minutes. In the piercing floodlight beams one could see the laughter as it peeled out and slapped their contorted...

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Chapter 16

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pp. 80-86

Shechem’s wife was a little woman with a strident voice. If you only heard her and did not see her you would imagine a heavy mass of flesh plunked in one corner of a jammed room and causing people to fly into each other with bullets of contradictory orders...

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Chapter 17

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pp. 87-88

They were unusually quiet on this trip, very unlike Sanko detainees. Teacher Efuet for one sat at the edge of the truck with his right hand dangling out wearily. His head, the baldness given sharper luminosity by the sunrays that bounded off it...

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Chapter 18

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pp. 89-93

The court on this day was a monastery; a cemetery, even. Figures, all of them unfamiliar, moved up and down in silent rumination, their black cloaks and cream wigs adding more piquancy to the weirdness. The big tree behind the registry...

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Chapter 19

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pp. 94-96

Shechem did not go straightaway to Tabi Lane. Not that he wouldn’t have loved to. It was just that he did not find the urge in him to do so. All through the events leading up to his release and until now that he was walking out of the court premises...

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Chapter 20

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pp. 97-100

Climbing back to the mountain was like returning to the place of his birth. The first time he’d been there he had cast away the cowardice and doubt that had pushed him into weak decisions like running away from Motine Swaibu. The inspiring freshness of the mountain...

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Chapter 21

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pp. 101-102

Levi came round in the thick of night four days after being shot. On the fifth day the door of the brick-walled hut creaked open and lights stormed his sunken eyes. He did not have the force to speak, so he moved his body painfully forward as if he wanted...

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Chapter 22

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pp. 103-

Superintendent Mbake Javis walked up to the red-walled hut alone towards evening. Levi was still lying just off the door and in view. As the wounded prisoner heard footsteps he raised his head with the full force that his improving consciousness...

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Chapter 23

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pp. 104-107

Shechem was still in poor spirits, degenerating physically and worsening emotionally with great speed. The furrows on either side of his dotted nose had cragged and deepened and his hair had sped up its greying...

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9789956715367
Print-ISBN-13: 9789956558513

Page Count: 112
Publication Year: 2008