Marvin's Reviews > Measuring Time

Measuring Time by Helon Habila
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Aug 03, 09

bookshelves: religion
Read in October, 2008

A long & demanding novel, it's also a slow starter, & I kept being tempted to bail out until, at midpoint, I figured out what it was about, & that was two of my favorite topics: History & national identity. "A true history," the main character reflects, "is one that looks at the lives of individuals, ordinary people who toil and dream and suffer, who bear the brunt of whatever vicissitudes time inflicts on the nation. If a historian could capture these ordinary lives, including their recollections of their own family's past, then he might come close to writing a true 'biographical history' of a nation; for when we refer to a nation, are we not really referring to the people that inhabit that nation, and so isn't the story of a nation then really the story of the people who make up the nation?" And in a sense that's what this author does in telling the story of this amateur Nigerian historian of a sort. But it's a different Nigeria than one sees in Half of a Yellow Sun, though there are some similarities, too, in a story that covers some of the same years, but in a different part of Nigeria. But why do fictional missionaries to Africa always come from Iowa?
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