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An Inquest into The Incredible Dreams of Garba Dakaskus by Umar Abubakar Sidi

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By Paul Laim

Garba Dakaskus is in the custody of a famous mystical book, “A Guide to the Secrets of the Alphabet,” sought after by the most powerful forces in the world. An assassin hired by a prominent Abu Dhabi literary agency is out to get him and the book. Garba Dakaskus flees to an asylum in Kware, a small village in Sokoto, northern Nigeria, after learning of this conspiracy against him. As Garba Dakaskus and the mysterious book continue to be sought after, he starts to go on about the legend and mystery surrounding the book and why it is a valuable document that strong forces are pursuing.

The book, A Guide to the Secrets of the Alphabet, is purported to have been written by an eleventh-century scholar and mystic, Al-Juzjani, which contains the secret of “letters”, and in particular, the “first letter”. Thus, to possess the mystery book is to possess the key to a rare knowledge and secret of the universe. However, unknown to its seekers, the magical book does not exist, Garba Dakaskus, is in fact, the mystery book. This hidden truth underlies the narrative spine of The Incredible Dreams of Garba Dakaskus. The passage below foregrounds the crux of the narrative;

As you will soon come to know, the secret I am about to reveal to you is of utmost importance. As a matter of fact, the survival of a large chunk of human knowledge is tied to it. And the trust between us has no question as it has been decided based on a combination of complex astrological calculations. Wait! By a similar palm of fate, an imbecile who works in the row of death is headed to my location, which I will not disclose even to you. Yes. This is exactly the reason why I have memorized the manual, Weapon Training for a Modern Fighter, its four marksmanship principles, and I have a.22 Berett a pistol by my side. Wait, give me a second. My pager indicates the status of my evil guest, the man hired to take me out. He will soon arrive in Sokoto on the Lear jet belonging to the cement billionaire, Ali Tanko. As you can see, time is not on our side.

Through a series of contemplative and allegorical allusions, the narrator (Garba Dakaskus) employs a discursive narrative technique in proffering a pseudo-intellectual analysis of the concept of knowledge and learning by evaluating various postulations on philosophy, history, art, music, magic, literature, and language. These contemplations are inchoate and attempt to unravel the core of true knowledge and prestige of the book, learning, and intellection. The narrator presupposes that the genuine production of knowledge is the fulcrum of human enlightenment and civilization. The discourses are situated within the annals of the evolution of Arab-Persian cultural and religious trajectories with a tinge of the transcendental influence of Islamic ethos through the Uthman Dan Fodio Jihad in northern Nigeria.

The Incredible Dreams of Garba Dakaskus is a complex narration with enormous potential to trigger the consciousness of readers and rekindle the dwindling interest in experimental metaphysical narratives laced with magical realism and mysticism. It is refreshing in its complex deployment of discursive narrative and intertextual techniques not common to modern African fiction. By engaging complex epistemological themes, the author furthers the discourse on the concept of the novel as a form of literary theorization in the production of pristine knowledge. It can be likened to the enigmatic Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari, Ruwan Bagaja by Abubakar Imam, and The Palm Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola, in its depth of artistry, employment of magical realism, robust language, and philosophical pontification on the concept of knowledge in all its ramifications.

The sturdy language of the narration and its tense and unstructured metaphors make it a hard read for less intellectually inclined readers as it requires a great deal of wit and patience to assimilate. Thus, it will appeal more to critical readers than non-critical readers. Although using the word, ‘Incredible’ in the title is a little disingenuous, it is nonetheless a remarkable representation of what true work of literary imagination embodies; brevity, creativity, language, and originality. It is a refreshing departure from the socio-anthropological narratives that permeate the African fiction landscape. Perhaps in another inquiry, this writer might delve a little more into the technicalities and inconsistencies of the novel.

Paul Liam is a poet and critic based in Abuja.   

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