To celebrate the fact that Irenosen Okojie has made the shortlist of the inaugural Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a writer of colour, we want to share our review of Speak Gigantular, a game-changing collection of short stories.
This collection of short stories is certainly deserving of its place on the shortlist. For me, it is a book that couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time. Thematically exploring ‘the City’, each of these stories present the reader with a state of confusion of some kind and with resultant ‘creatures’ of the city – something which resonates in many ways which the current social climate.
The characters within these stories have all been made ‘creatures’ of their circumstances – take Henri from ‘Animal Parts’, who has no control over who he is until, victimised and alone, he decides to take action – and the stories see them coming to terms with that or rebelling against it. Each story featured is original, dark and with a witty but almost disturbing humour which unsettles and forces the reader to draw into question exactly what a social norm is. Unlike any short story collection I have read before it, Speak Gigantular truly seems to speak a unique language – a language which both celebrates and questions the notion of ‘difference’ and which pushes one to reevaluate one’s approach to situations and the people we meet.
This collection is delivered with an unmistakably influential voice and drive and brings new modes of thinking in concise commute-friendly stories whose ideas continue to grow in the mind long after reading. This collection has certainly changed the way I will think about, read and write short stories, this is fiction at its best, enacting change, driving the reader to act and it is spectacular. Irenosen Okojie certainly Speaks Gigantular here.
Speak Gigantular was published by Jacaranda Books Art Music in 2016.