Notes from Nduaguibe's Tragedy of Illusion ~ By Okechukwu Keshi UKegbu
"We are all born for love....It is the principle of existence and its only end.- Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) Sybil.
Several themes can be explored in Dr. Max Nduaguibe's "Tragedy of Illusion". The themes cut across subjects of love, religious and cultural barriers, loneliness, abandonment, separation,among others.
The 257-page novel is a classic celebration of love. Love which overcomes cultural, ethnic and religious barriers. It it is interspersed with suspense, and sometimes comic reliefs.
It is a story of two characters, though from different ethnic and religious backgrounds, share similar situations in life. Caesar, the protagonist of the novel, was a desperate search for love. His situation was aptly captured by a paragraph in chapter four thus:"A woman with whom he had lived for the greater part of his life had transferred all the love she had for him to her children and grand children. In addition to the frustration of being abandoned by his wife".
No other time had Caesar needed love and care than now. He had ventured into politics, where he wasted a fortune. His home he could have resorted to for love and care had become hostile. His wife has become unnecessarily nagging and demanding. Caesar had no other option than to look elsewhere for love and comfort if he had to survive. Like Christopher Poindexter says:" All i want, All I've ever wanted, Since the bones in me began to grow, Is to know love, and for love, too, to know me".
His meeting with the princess of Shuwa, Yagana, whom Caesar describes as an angel, was a chance meet , but it was love at first. Initially, Caesar was caught in the web of indecision, rejection and fear .His indecision is provoked a lot of factors: They come from different ethnic and religious backgrounds; and in this part of the country, which serves as the locale of the work, it is forbidden to find women and men discussing in the open; Yagana's assumed marital status was another factor that constituted threat to Caesar's ambition.
At the end the initial fears and indecision were overcome and Caesar dared and succeeded. In Yagana, Caesar found a soul mate. He found a character with a similar life's situation. Yagana's life is fraught with bitter situation. The mother separated from her father early in life, exposing her to the vagaries of a step mother's upbringing. For her, growing up under the care of a step mother was brutish and dreadful.
Yagana's experience with the step mother was so dreadful that she did not hesitate at the offer by her father to give her our for marriage to Mahmud at the tender age of 12. Unfortunately, the marriage which Yagana thought could have offered a relief was a metaphor child abuse and sex labour.
This marriage proposal was a tall order. There are odds stacking against it. Both are coming from diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds. Both are married have children, though Yagana is separated from the husband. But this poses some puzzles to unravel: Are religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds threats to true love? Can true love transcend these mundane sentiments? One is strictly constrained by time and space to elucidate on this, but the rest of the story tells better.
As the story unfolds, a lot of water passed between threatening the union between Caesar and Yagana .It is clear manifestation of mischief, hatred, backbiting and mudslinging, all designed to scuttle the ambitions of two people expressing true love because they come from diverse ethnic and religious background. The intrigues and manipulations were intensive.
At the end, Yagana paid the supreme price. She died in a ghastly auto clash. It was a life caught short in a heart- rending manner. Yagana did not live to reap the fruit of her labour. Her labour is in vain .A passage in the novel explains the situation better:" There was a total loss of comprehension of the reason why Yagana have to die this way. Had she paid the ultimate sacrifice for love? Yes, she had sacrificed her life in the pursuit of love, freedom, in the quest to have a control of her life, to reclaim her human dignity, the greatest that had meaning. It was a devastating thought for Caesar to bear". It is a collaboration of the scripture that" Greater love hath no man than this, that one lay down his life for his friends".
The irony of the whole episode is that the members of the two religion which aggressively oppose each other were united by Yagana's death- her death was deeply mourned by both Muslims and Christians.
"Tragedy of Illusion or "Tragedy of Yagana" , as the case may be,is indeed a tragedy, and nothing demonstrates the tragedy more that the ultimate price Yagana paid in the search for ultimate. It is a must read for those seeking true love. It is a classical expose on the effect of religion and culture on our corporate existence.
The language is simple though interspersed with figurative techniques to create effect. It is a rare for someone who have backgrounds in law and political science to flow in such creative language. It subscribes to the claim that "creativity transcends areas of individual academic specialisation".
Ukegbu, a public policy analyst and communication strategist, writes from Umuahia, Abia State.