My Literature Lesson, today, is about one of my my favourite readings from the anthology, “When the Sun Goes Down and Other Stories from Africa and Beyond”. “Twilight Trek” by Nigerian novelist, Sefi Atta, is indeed, a work of art. In this story, Sefi highlights the challenges that Africans face as they attempt to run away from their mother countries in search of a better life in Europe.
The narrator of the story decides to make the dangerous journey from Africa to Spain to pursue his dream of playing football. The desire to make a new life for himself is motivated more by his contempt of his current way of life. With a prostitute for a mother and a childhood exposed to immorality, the narrator’s future appears bleak.
The journey, which is beset with a myriad of challenges, is cut short when he loses his money to a lady he had just met – Patience. The hard-earned coins disappear and with them – the dream.
Christian readers will easily identify the subtle allusion to the Old Testament’s Exodus in Atta’s story. With Africa being the present-day Egypt, Africans are running away in droves, much like the Isralites did in the time of Moses. The allure of the promised land – Europe, has forced many to make this dangerous trek, with some paying with their dear lives.
While the narrator does not get to cross the Mediterranean Sea as the Isralites did the Red Sea, those who do, hope to find a land flowing with milk and honey in the name of jobs and better living conditions. But with all the hardships faced by the narrator, Sefi seems to question the wisdom of those attempting the ‘exodus’.
Patience, a ‘reformed’ prostitute reads the Bible quite often during the journey, yet, she is only masking her real intent behind the Book of God. As the narrator sleeps hungry, the Malian Moslem women are not swayed by their religion to share their meal with a fellow Moslem. This leads us to wonder about the type of religion these Africans follow.
When religion is practiced by dishonest, hypocritical people, it cannot bear fruits. Similarly, when Africans take part in an ‘Exodus’ using dishonest means and betraying each other on the way, they cannot expect to succeed. it is then of little wonder that while the narrator loses his money to Patience, this does not guarantee her a safe passage as she is yet to cross the ‘Red Sea’ as far as we know.
Many young African students dream of living their ‘God forsaken’ continent to the lands of boundless opportunities in the West. Ata’s story is a good reminder to such young readers that they cannot find paradise if they are not ready to create it for themselves.
For a complete summary of Sefi Atta’s ‘Twilight Trek’, please click here.
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