Scrolls of the Living Night (Cissus World Press)
Kobi the Magician is born to a Ghanaian woman within meager environs. Three midwives witness the astonishing and mystical birth, as well as the miraculous moment when the young king speaks of a twin. Against Mama Kopi’s wishes, the midwives spread the news throughout the town of their future monarch’s birth. But, a year later, in the same area, a wealthy family celebrate their son’s first birthday. The midwives, believing that the celebrated Paa Quartey is Kobi’s prophesied twin, make ardent plans for the brothers to come together, but their well-intended strategy falls flat. Nevertheless, the twins ultimately meet—much to the chagrin of their parents. Although the brother’s vow “to each other that nothing would render them disunited,” they are unaware to what extent their promise will take them.
Multi award-winning novelist Benjamin Kwakye pens an incredible tale of good and evil in his fourth, and most recent, work. An epic poem, Kwakye’s third-person verse is replete with a wealth of characters set within Ghana. While Kobi and Paa are, in essence, the principal characters, a large portion of Kwakye’s plot focuses on the interactions and reflections of the parents, the boys’ learning environments as they are growing, and the behind-the-scene situations with the midwives before the story shifts to the twins and their incongruous relationship.
Divided into three books, and designed in chapters, Kwakye’s ballad follows over 300 pages of stunning un-metered ABAB scheme, laced with rich descriptive verbiage. Keeping his narrative constantly moving, Kwakye alternates between various character scenes, centered on the Kobis, the Quarteys, the three midwives, and of course, the twin brothers. Of particular interest is the way Kwakye incorporates traditional culture aspects within a modern-day scenario. This pronounced feature is especially captured in the three midwifes, who combine spiritualism in their passionate pursuit to bring the two families, as well as the brothers, together.
Filled with a flurry of twists and turns, Scrolls of the Living Night is not only a delightful welcome to African literature, but also a refreshing read for poetry aficionados.
“I will be the moth; you be the butterfly.”
Manhattan Book Review (November 2015)
“Kwakye's evocative blend of detail, memory, stories, characters and lyrical commentary makes this book an ambitious project that will have a lasting impact on the reader. Traditional and modern Ghanaian/African culture clash in this courageous adventure rich with memorable characters, myths, places and sophisticated language.”
Legacy of Phantoms (Africa World Press)
The Other Crucifix (Winner 2011 IPPY Gold Award Multicultural Fiction Adult )
“The novel raises important questions about identity and belonging as it discusses both Badu’s individual struggles and the more generalized experience of the modern African man.” World Literature Today
“This is a moving and readable story in which one individual’s choices and experiences speak for wider and more universal concerns, encompassing radical upheaval and personal development; crossing borders, crossing continents.” New Internationalist
“With a powerful message of the place of the modern African man, "The Other Crucifix" is a fine read that shouldn't be missed for world literary fiction collections.” Midwest Book Review
“[A] captivating tale of double estrangement… In a nutshell, The Other Crucifix is the handiwork of a literary virtuoso, anchored in the themes of psychological and physical exile and the quest for self-identity. The pedagogical import of this novel resides in its suitability to the young and the old. The language is clear and free of sophistry. Students and teachers with an interest in African history, languages and cultures would find the text an invaluable resource.” Peter W. Vakunta in Pambazuka News
“With The Other Crucifix , Kwakye has given us a book that manages to both entertain and educate, often touching on issues that Africans in the Diaspora have grappled with, as they try to integrate into their adopted countries.” Africa Book Club
“The Other Crucifix stands out because apart from painting for readers the obvious challenges for Africans abroad, such as communication and other familiar things, [it] manages to clearly define the deep questions in the heart about race and differences.” Daily Graphic
"Benjamin Kwakye is a novelist whose genius becomes more apparent with each novel he writes. The Other Crucifix, his third, is a must read for anyone who loves a good story. But this work is no ordinary narrative of the transplanted African in search of an education in the West. Benjamin Kwakye demonstrates why he is the grandmaster of storytelling, and with the creation of Jojo Badu, the often naïve narrator, we come to know a character who by turns is infuriating and endearing, and whom we see mature into a responsible adult. Yet, this is no mere bildungsroman, Benjamin Kwakye’s mastery of the novel’s form and language enables him to economically capture the breath, depth and emotional energies that inform the actions of the characters whose lives speak not only to the specificity of life in an elite Liberal Arts College, or being in Ghana intoxicated by the heady promise of the post-independence era, or caught-up in the transformative period of the U.S. during the 60s and 70s. The Other Crucifix is a modern-day epic that embodies the wisdom of the Sankofa bird as it reviews the last century: the lessons learned or not, the paths taken or untrod, and prepares us, like Jojo, as we finish reading the last page, that “life starts again.” There is hope resonating in this gem of a novel."
Prof. Vincent Odamtten