The Other Side of Truth

by Beverly Naidoo

 

"The other side of truth" is a marvellous book that combines both fiction and non-fiction. The author uses real-live characters who existed during the past and creates other fictional characters. Among others, Beverly Naidoo, the author, tells us about Ken Saro-Wiwa, a Nigerian writer, who protested that his birthplace had been polluted and robbed by multinational oil companies and the military government. He was hanged in November 1995. The story starts right after this event, when the Nigerian government was still a dictatorship. This writer is mentioned in the book because Mr Folarin Solaja, one of the main characters, might end up like him if he continues to write articles that do not please the government.

"They’re not finished with you, Folarin! They won’t stop until they’ve shut you up. You know what that means! You’ve gone too far with them now."

Their father always took chances in what he wrote. He said nothing now, but Sade knew his words. The truth is the truth. How can I write what’s untrue ?

"You call your article ‘Our Children’s Future’. What do you imagine will happen to your own, Folarin?"

Threatened of death for having written the truth, Folarin and his two children are forced to flee their country as quickly as possible. Their mother’s death at the beginning will haunt Sade and Femi, the two children, during their escape from Nigeria and stay in London. Brief flashbacks cut in the story as well as small reminders from their mother:

"Tell a lie, play with fire. But don’t complain about the smoke ! "

Right from the beginning, the reader enters this world full of injustice, in which human rights are banned and joins the author in her desire for justice and freedom. We discover Sade and Femi’s new life as refugees and we could consider them quite lucky, as they immediately find a place to eat and sleep. But we don’t imagine it to be that easy to get political asylum! Having left their father behind, Sade and Femi are very reluctant to tell their true story, fearing that their father might not be able to get through security checks at Lagos Airport and out of Nigeria. But is it really a good idea ? Will they be able to get political asylum and find their father, after all?

A marvellous read that is even more moving seen through the eyes of twelve-year-old Sade and ten-year-old Femi. The author, Beverly Naidoo, was born in South Africa and as a student, became involved in resistance to apartheid. Her first book was banned in South Africa until 1991, but was a big success all around the world. It was meant to have "opened a window for many thousands of readers on to what apartheid meant for children".

 

by Sophie