Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The New Yorker: "Baptizing the Gun" by Uwem Akpan

And so begins a new year of New Yorker stories. Starting with:

This story by Uwem Akpan began well enough, steeped in conflict. The narrator, a Nigerian priest on his way to Lagos to beg aid for his parish from the wealthier charges, is stuck in a traffic jam that is no ordinary traffic jam. Given rampant crime and corruption, not to mention the unreliable Volkswagen Beetle he’s driving, getting stuck in traffic could mean death. When his car does break down, he is forced to take the help of a tall stranger who, he believes, is concealing a gun in his pocket. The narrator, despite being a man of God, is terrified—of his new passenger, of the militias, of the police, of everyone. His fear gets worse and worse and it becomes hard to believe that he’s ever been able to function as a priest at all in Nigeria. And the tension mounts until . . .

But it drags on and on, way too long, in my opinion. And the ending is neither believable nor satisfying. At least we learned that Nigeria is corrupt. Oh wait. We already knew that.

January 4, 2010: “Baptizing the Gun” by Uwem Akpan


The Latent Fox said...

I agree that the ending was disappointing. I think the rest of the story was worth it, though, for its colorful descriptions of city life in bustling Lagos.

Anonymous said...

Disappointing? Not at all. I was riveted, and delighted by the grinding tension, powerful insights, pressure cooker cauldron of the darkening city. Then behold, a flash of insight into the creativity and energy which is Nigeria - not just another corrupt place, but a place of hope. It becomes a metaphor for our modern lives at the exhalation of pent up paranoia and reaffirmation of the faith the priest had carelessly let slip through his fingers.