"The lost chapter of My Name is Red" as the novelist and writer Boy John, a South Sudanese, puts it. His new collection of stories, titled "The Pleading of the Fox”, was published by the publisher “Algeria Reads” in 2018.
The writer returns with this thoughtful and harmonious work after releasing his novels "Bats Paradise" and "Comian". The collection consists of 9 short and long stories of 72 pages. In this series, the writer intertwines dreams with a local pure African reality, between the contemporary storytelling and its traditional old school.
In this collection, Boy adds details of his local heritage of folk stories. The name of the fox chosen by the writer to defend himself from injustice is one of the most frequent names in popular stories. This name is indicating the intelligence of the fox and its cheating tendencies, as we hear of such stories from our grandparents.
The publishing house has written as an introduction to this collection stating: "from here, Boy John is one of the new writers chosen by “Algeria Reads” press, as a way of opening up to new African literature." What a beautiful African model for African narratives, with beautiful stories of the past and present, between war and peace.
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“The Pleading of the Fox” is the most pathetic title compared to the other stories in the collection. The storyteller begins with the "Independence Day Tour" story, a beautiful masterpiece about the joy of independence. He closes the page of war and opens another for freedom. But the beauty of the story emerges when people found their way back to celebrate independence. There is also a "New Year's Journey", which is about a young man confessing his love to a girl, and before he can find the answer, he gives her three days to respond to this deep emotional request. Nevertheless, he is surprised by her mother telling her that the bus is waiting for her to return to the new country.
There is the story of “A Child Who Cought My Attention” that is like dancing to the fifth string of a musical instrument. It gives a different kind of feeling, something that feels as a moving fetus. It is a story about a child who wets his bed while he sleeps, afraid of darkness, and milk droplets are falling on his shirt when he drinks it. What an eloquence of reality lived by millions of people, and a subtle narrative. We quote from the story:
Boy poses many questions in "Suicide", a story about a man who committed suicide after two failing attempts, but succeeding the third time around. It is a story in which the author places a hope for peace that is painted in the hands of Juba’s children. "Whiteness decorated their fingernails". Peace begins like this: a glimpse of hope in the hearts of people. We quote from the story: "how long it has been since the birds have come in groups, as they are meeting with a range of colors. It is the time of returning.” These translucent birds look like humans. They came across the Nile, but the man committed suicide in the Nile by jumping off a bridge. His suicidal message is passed on by the witness, whose life is no longer the same.
Boy writes the stories about war, peace, politics and society in a harmonious and hollow way that needs to be pre-interpreted before judging.
There is another story "Chan", about a person returning from war and potentially harboring vandals. The story tells an account of someone who’s arrested on charges of harboring vandals. They all want to live in a house, but the house has become deserted and occupied by mice, because the owner neglected the advice of his friends.
You may notice the slight similarities between this story and story of "My Father's Wish". The wish did not come true, according to the story. The father spent his days drinking wine and his home was sad on a day of joy, when a relative of the family died during a wedding celebration. This did not prevent the continuation of the marriage ceremonies, but when the family sat down with the father, he suggested they continue drinking wine. As the story quoted the traditional saying “joy is a guest, but sadness is a family member”.
After all these stories, Boy comes to the story "The Pleading of the Fox," which is dedicated to the Turkish writer and the 2006 Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk. The writer begins the story with a fox who is complaining about the injustice of being put in a dirty prison, and his wasted days.
This narrator wanders between the worlds of the present and the past, among politics, society, religion, and arts, putting us into a conflict between foxes and dogs. This fox, who defends himself without needing a lawyer, is trying to trump people’s attempts to find the similarity between him and the dog. What distinguishes him from the dog is his tail (the stark redness appears more beautifully than on any other place), but the interpretation goes beyond this if we look at the connection the story has with Turkey.
There is a big similarity between the story of “The Pleading of the Fox” and the novel of the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk "My Name is Red", which revolves around ancient times, art, conflicts between perspectives, and delightful descriptions of romance. “The Pleading of the Fox” is a story about a fox, but is distinguished with its red color – a symbolic color according to many intellectual schools.
With this new book, Boy is creating a unique work that addresses various forms of life of the native South Sudanese. Through his collection of stories, "The Pleading of the Fox," we sense the connections that his stories have with everyday life and the authentic traditional African spirit. Try to read through the book, and you will be stopped by one of the stories. Pure African tunes will dance as each narration anticipates the other, in an attempt to explain the protagonists.
After “Comian”, “Paradise of Bats” and this collection of stories, Boy John plans to publish a poetry book titled "The boy who passed from here" next year.