The Sound of Things to Come is daringly experimental. It’s unlike your normal novel. This is an unusual novel that partly reads like a collection of short stories. Emmanuel Iduma uses this book to blur rigid classification of literature. I think this book should not be classified as a novel, a collection or as whatever. Let’s just take it as what it is – a book of literature you may find interesting. Not everyone will find this book interesting, but most will come out of the book satisfied. Books that attempt to understand our world in uncommon ways are not always every reader’s delight, the encyclopaedia for instance. This book is invested so much in finding answers, to confound for solutions and to elevate the usual. In doing this, it complicates the minute to show everything is in linked chains of causes. Life may not always be as difficult as this book paints it. Perhaps it is. In showing that life is a mess; an infinite meaninglessness; and fucked with everything and nothing especially – this book is deep.
The Sound of Things to Come was previously published as Farad under Parresia in Nigeria. If you read the previous version, there is really nothing new in this one. Only that the last chapter (formerly Farad) has a new name. It’s now called The Reckoning. This is just a rebranded edition. Reading this book again does this for me; I see it strikes at the depth of the human mind and tries to show its understanding of it. As you read on, the author dots the lines for you as he animates settings to play characters. These settings connect the different parts of this book. Emmanuel Iduma does so many things in this book. Some are good, some laboured and some you just wonder at their need. The reader may have to waddle through some very rigid prose in this book. However, there is substance in this book even as the prose stutters and trudges here and there. Many parts of this book read almost like Emmanuel Iduma’s essays. This is the truth. But there is also another truth to this book, The Sound of Things to Come makes up for the reading in the poignant themes it delivers. You will cry reading the travails characters in this book are assailed by. Emmanuel Iduma de-familiarises routine issues for a shocking effect.
This book draws most of its characters from the unsatisfied but conscious Nigerian middle class. These people are conscious of everything, they are smart, almost the avant-garde type but mostly confused. In showing the troubles that confront this middle class elitist bunch, Emmanuel Iduma rather privileges their pyscho-drama more than their socio-economic troubles. It is in this way a reader can situates Emmanuel Iduma’s book in the psychoanalytic context. Emmanuel Iduma is more concerned with what goes on in the mind than what happens outside it. The writer interestingly explores the mishmashes between conflicting desires and a fight for individual realisation. Unlike most characters of the 21st century African novels, characters in The Sound of Things to Come are not concerned with economics and food. Their troubles are mostly intellectual. Their need for the ideal and pursuit for life’s tangibility is their undoing.
The Sound of Things to Come is like an accident scene and a hospital. Most times, characters are the doctors of themselves. In this book, life is the accident scene, and when the characters are battered and injured they withdraw into themselves to heal. They are their own hospitals. In One Man, Muna scarred by religious conflicts in the north comes to the south and shut down on himself to heal. In Helper, Ugo’s brother becomes reclusive to deal with the family’s loss. A Father’s Son follows after a son’s resort to everything but the mundane to spite his father. The Sound of Things to Come and The Museum of Silver Lights show characters who try to escape their realities to find meanings elsewhere. The Memory Band is Ella caught in her past, the circularity of love between Frank and Goody and how death is definitive. The Reckoning gives resolution to everything.
Emmanuel Iduma takes a full plunge into the human psychology and mental health as he melds together shattered bits of human messes to make meanings. Emmanuel Iduma involves himself so much in meaning making. This attempt at meaning making is what one of the characters in the book, Debbie calls finding “pattern in a pattern-less mind”. (pg. 31). But no matter how conscientious this attempt is, “we (just) cannot predict the human mind.”(pg. 31: insertion mine). The human mind is that complicated. Emmanuel Iduma creates interesting characters. These characters sharply attract. Since they are almost always in their heads, you are thrilled going in there with them and will never want to come out. Emmanuel Iduma must have been reading so much of Freud when writing this book. These characters exhibit significant features of Freudian psychoanalysis. In putting up a kind of defence mechanism, characters adopt such Freudian mechanism like screen memory, the Freudian slip and projection.
In blotting out issues in her past, Ella in her crazed state brings up many incoherent details to cover the real memory that ails her. Ella’s character is a researcher’s delights. I like what Emmanuel Iduma does with her. After the fallout from the choir election, Lekan’s repressed emotions are let loose. These repressed emotions find outlet in what he does after the election. Projection which shows people disowning their negatives attributes as they identify them in others is one attitude common to most characters in this book.
Another thing I like about this book are the chapters’ opening sentences. See one of them here:
She was not one of us.
She said her life was an early evening, or an early dawn, and she was going to leave before it was night or before it was morning. (pg.105)
This is another one:
He said he liked being wet, enjoyed the immense satisfaction he got when he was drenched to the skin, his shirt gummed to his body and his face dripping. He said he wished the car were roofless, so that as the rain fell we would understand what it meant to be wet, to take in rain without restraint. (pg.163)
I am hopeful Emmanuel Iduma’s next book will be great. He is promising. The Sound of Things to Come tells me that much.