Caine Prize Posts

“Season of Crimson Blossoms” by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim

It occurred to her then that in the final analysis, dreams can be dainty and beautiful, like butterflies, and just as fragile. 

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim’s debut novel Season of Crimson Blossoms is about the love affair of  fifty-five-year-old grandmother and widow Binta Zubairu with a twenty-six-year-year-old local ganster Hassan Reza. They met when Binta stumbled upon Hassan robbing her home. The story is set in conservative Islamic Northern Nigeria where an affair such as this would be frowned upon, let alone the vast age difference between the two. It is complicated further as Hassan Reza reminds Binta of her son who passed away many years ago. Similarly Binta reminds Hassan Reza of his mother! For a while the two are able to keep their affair a secret until it is discovered — it has explosive repurcussions. Not only upon the immediate family but society too. The women at the local madarasa are unforgiving and hostile.

Season of Crimson Blossoms is an extremely powerful book for its sharp etching of Nigerian society. At the same time if plucked out of context these scenarios would probably not be unusual in any other country. It is not necessarily a story about the love affair of a far older women with a man young enough to be her son and the moral implications of it. Not at all! It can also be construed as a commentary upon the extreme conservatism that exists in various pockets of this world.  Within these spaces are to be found individuals with a fiesty spirit and a strong free will who are most often unable to express themselves sufficiently for the presence of the conscience keepers in their homes and communities. It is also fascinating to read how deftly the author creates the story offering different perspectives but the strongest that shines through is that of Binta and it is done ever so gently that it creates empathy for her character in the reader’s mind. The harsh judgement that the women folk at the madarasa pronounce upon Binta hurts and anger’s the reader as much as it does Binta. Life is certainly as fragile as butterflies!

It is no surprise then that this debut novel won the prestigious Nigerian prize for Literature worth $100,000. Abubakar Adam Ibrahim won the prize after defeating 173 other writers including Caine Prize winner Elnathan John for Born on a Tuesday  and past winner Chika Unigwe for  Night Dancer .

Season of Crimson Blossoms is extraordinary. Days after the book is over, one cannot help but think about it constantly.

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim Season of Crimson Blossoms Speaking Tiger, New Delhi, 2017. Pb. pp. 290. Rs. 499.

31 January 2018 

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