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Features, Interviews

Long before Celebrity Interviews and decades before Twitter blurbs and Polls; likes and dislikes, teenage author, Marcel Proust, answered a series of questions asked by the  Daughter of the Future Prime Minister – Felix Faure, while playing a parlor game.

The responses and question seemed normal at the time, but has since taken a life of its own.

Posthumously coined the Proust Questionaire, it has become a way for great luminaries to ponder life’s greatest notions – love; hope, happiness and even the essence of life itself. These questions are simple, yet revealing; and although on first grasp might look quotidian, a little introspection would reveal layers upon layers of sensibilities.

The Proust Questionaire remains a timeless reminder of the caprices, appeal, and innermost self of the creative spirit, and a tunnel through which masters and literary greats continue to whisper to us through the ages. Centuries later, the questions remain a direct, yet subtle probe of consciousness and complexities, usually part revealing and part funny.

When asked what his current state of mind was, David Bowie replied – ”pregnant,” and when Proust was asked where he would like to live, his reply was: “in the realm of the ideal, or rather, my ideal.”

Not known to allow themselves be penetrated, writers and creatives generally, are known for elaborate masks, built with beautiful wordplay and grand illusions, but  we are at least given a fraction of the simple, yet profound intricacies of a brilliant mind and the strangeness that allows a person gaze into the unknown to create further unknowns.

This is how to question the creative at heart, and dreamers by rote.

Abiodun Awodele – Writer at dusk, masquerade at dawn.

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness? I’d have to say that will be being successful at the things I set out to do, the things that matter to me, and success for my friends at the things that matter to them. I want success for me and my crew. 2. What is your greatest fear? I fear failure. I break out in cold sweat when I think about not making the grade anywhere or in whatever form, and that pushes me to strive harder to avoid failure. 3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? I think I’m too trusting of people. Many times I’ve been taken advantage of because I invested too much trust in the person. I like to be sincere with people, so when they don’t reciprocate it saddens me. I wish I trusted people less. 4. What is the trait you most deplore in others? I’m caught somewhere between dishonesty and time wasting. People who lie make me mad, just like people who have no sense of time and cannot be punctual to save their own lives. 5.  Which living person do you most admire? I’m not too big on hero worship, but I’ll pick my dad if push comes to shove. The man has taught me some lessons on people management that I’ll never forget in a hurry. 6. What is your greatest extravagance? There was a time I spent an insane amount of money on installing a satellite receiver system. I mean, it wasn’t like I even had time to watch so much television in the first place, but I had it installed anyway, just to please myself, money that could have been spent on something more useful. 7. What is your current state of mind? Very hopeful and optimistic. I’m looking forward to doing things I feel I should have done earlier, and hoping they’d give me satisfaction I dream of in doing them. 8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Chastity. I won’t expand on this. 9. What do you most dislike about your appearance? I like me, no, I love me, a lot. It’s not like I have a choice or I can look any different is it? Why dislike what you can’t change? An episode of Botched will tell you it’s better to stay the way you were made. Just love yourself. 10.  What is the quality you most like in a man? The ability to keep your mouth shut and mind your own business. Too many men these days just want to run their mouths and poke their nose. Don’t be one of those men. 11.  What is the quality you most like in a woman? The ability to keep your mouth shut and mind your own business. Too many women these days just want to run their mouths and poke their nose. Don’t be one of those women. 12.  Which words or phrases do you most overuse? Mine would have to be LOL. Depending on my mood, it can be a conversation starter, filler or ender. 13.  What or who is the greatest love of your life? If I told you, I’d have to kill you 14.  Which talent would you most like to have? Super powers are more my thing, but if you insist then I’ll say it would be making money off  other peoples’ talents 15.  If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Maybe I’d love to be more forceful with people, and less trusting in certain circumstances. 16.  What do you consider your greatest achievement? For now, releasing my first book would have to be it. The doubt and uncertainty was immense, but I finally rose above all that and just did it. 17.  If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? Person of course. Imagine coming back as tissue paper. Ewww! 18.  Where would you most like to live? In quiet village (preferably on a farm) somewhere in Europe. Light would be constant and there wouldn’t be any ‘Fulani Herdsmen’ to disturb the peace. I love quietude. 19.  What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Being in a situation you don’t want, and not being able to do anything about it. 20.  What is your most marked characteristic? My carefree attitude. I’m easygoing, I think. I’m not too demanding, and I find joy in little things. 21.  What do you most value in your friends? Loyalty. Has to be loyalty. I want my friend to be my friend in every sense of the word. Is that too much to ask? 22.  Who are your favorite writers? John Jakes, Ted Dekker and Stephen King. 23.  Who is your hero of fiction? I don’t have any. 24.  Which historical figure do you most identify with? Marilyn Monroe 25.  Who are your heroes in real life? Parents, all of them. 26.  What is your greatest regret? That I didn’t pursue my writing dream earlier. Maybe by now I would have ‘blown’. Who knows? I’m grateful for the talent and all that, but sometimes I wish I’d listened to the voices in my head much earlier. 27.  How would you like to die? Peacefully, with two Angels on hand to take me to the mansion in the sky 28.  What is your motto? Life is an ‘I’ experience. It might sound a tad selfish, but do stuff for you. At the end of the day the consequences of your actions are yours anyway, so why worry about other people? ***** Abiodun Awodele is a writer, and his books, “Always and Forever.” and “As In A Day” areout on Okadabooks and Amazon.

[color-box] Please note: the story is in Yoruba language. R18+ [/color-box] Ara Otunba o bale mo.   “Wa Kola, wo bar geh yen, ki lo ri si?” Kolade siwo oti to fe gbe senu, o yipada wo apa ibi t’Otunba n n’awo si. “Baba, ri si bii ti ba wo? E la ye mi sir.”   Inu fe bi Otunba die sugbon o paa mora. “Bawo lo se ma n se bayi gan Kola? Mo ni koo ye omo wo, o n so pe ki n la ye e. Iwo je bii baby abi JJC ni? Joo gbe cup owo e sile koo wo smallie yen dada jare. Se o ri pe geh yen set ni?” “E ma binu Otunba, mi o mo pe nkan te n so niyen. Bhet ki n se spec yin l’omo yi sir? Mo ro pe awon nkan rabata le ma n toka si ni, awon nkan bamba, awon wumandiesel. Eleyi a kan tee ba ko lu o.”   Otunba rerin muse. “Looto lo so Kola. Tele tele, awon eja nla nla milligram ni mo ma n je sugbon mo pade skelewu kan lose to koja ni Laspotech. Ayayaya, pelebe l’omo yen looto sugbon razor ni. Ti mo se n ju l’oun gan n dapada. Ki n to ye gear, oun gan ti te clutch. O gbe mi rin bi motor tuntun l’ori titii marose. O do mi bii pe ko r’okori.”   Suraju bu serin keeke. “Otunba!!!!!! Omoge le ponle bayi? E wo be se n soro nipa obo bii pe o koja keeyan do ko si wo.”   “Ha! Suraju! Ma je kan ba e gbo o. O koja bee walahi. Too ba pade omo ti mo n so yi, eru a ba iwo gaan. Ani omo yi do mi anyhow. O mo pe mi o ki n se learner. Ti n ba so pe omo koja bee, o ni lati je confam. Idi ti mo se n wo eleyi naa niyen o, oun ati omo ti mo n r’oyin e yi jo ni shape bakanaa ni. Bi mo se n wo eleyi naa, oun gaan a le gbemi eeyan.”   “Ehn Otunba, to ba je beeni e gbe sunmo ngba yen. Abi? Ki lo tun ku? Ojo ta aba r’ibi ni ibi n wole nau.”   Kia, Otunba fa telefonu yo lapo, o naa si Suraju. “Gba ogbeni, lo gba nomba e wa fun mi. O saa mo pe ogboogbon l’agbalagba fi n sa fun maalu. Ma je ki n lo fara mi wole.  Koko gba nomba e wa funmi, emi a pee, maa organize baa se maa rira.   Suraju runmu po bi eni pe ko fe dide. “Ki lo n se bobo yi? Ma so fun mi pe o le gba nomba omo ele fun mi.” Sibe Suraju o gba telefoonu l’owo Otunba. “Ehen, se bayen ni? Okay, 5K wa lapo mi fun enikeni to ba mu nomba ati oruko omo yen de bi laarin iseju marun.” K’Otunba to jale oro, Kolade ti gba foonu n ti e. “5k abi kin i mo gbo yen? Mo n bo.” Kia lo dide, lo k’ori sona bar pelu foonu lowo osi. Otunba rerin muse. “Kare jare Kola ti o kere. Mo jeri e, o o go ra e ri.”   Leyin iseju marun, Kolade pada de.   “Otunba baba o! Mo ti gbe de o, yakaare! E guess nkan ti mo ba bo.” “Ki ni, ki lo fe ju nomba ati oruko lo?” “Oruko ati nomba bawo, emi o ma bayen wa rara.”   Ara Otunba ro woo.   “Haba, ki wa lo n be kaakiri fun? Se too ba le sise taa ran e, o de ni waste time oluwa e. O ti aga e seyin bii pe o fe dide.  Joo Suraju, je ka lo jare.”   “Baba! Se e trust mi mo ni? Emi Kola lo ma n so roo? Mo n m’eye bo lapo e n siye meji boya dudu ni abi pupa. E gbo nkan ti mo fe so no kee to binu nau.” “O daa na, ki lo ba bo?”   “Mo ti ba geh yen soro, Sade l’oruko e. Mo so fun pe baba alaye bambam kan wan nibi to n je dodo e gan, pe baba alaye yen nko jee gaan ni. Mo ni to ba le gbara duro fun baba, walahi baba ma a ba su je le l’ori. Bi mo se mention oro owo bayi, eti e na ni. In fact, mo so fun pe to ba le te baba lorun, baba gaan a make sure pe oun naa o regret. Ki ni mo so bee fun, Sade ba dahun, o ni ki n so fun baba pe ti baba o ba mind o,  ki baba wo toilet awon obinrin to kangun s’ogiri lapa otun yen. Koun sare fun baba ni preview.”   “Ooto abi fabu?” “Fabu bawo Otunba? Oya, eyin e wo toilet kee duro dee. Ti o ba baa yin nibe n’iseju mewa, e ma fun mi ni 5k ke de ma sanwo oti ti mo ti n mu lati eni.”   Esa bo l’enu Otunba bi ojo l’ojuese. “Ose Kolamania. Sharp guy!!! Iwo y’ato s’awon gbantueyo, awon kokoro ewa. Iwo o ki n s’awon slow Suraju ti o ni liver ati gba ordinary nomba.”   Baba sare dide. “Je n lo confamu information e boya bee lo ri. To ba le ri bee lasan, owo e di 10k ti n ba de, pelu gbogbo beer to ba fe.” “Ko si wahala baba.”   Otunba ti duro ninu toilet bii iseju marun nigba teeyan kan kan’lekun. Kia lo si, Sade ti de.   “Se ibiyi safe sha?” ni ibeere to koko beere. Sade dahun pelu ohun tutu. “E ma f’oya sir. Mo ti gbe notice s’enu ona pe won n tu ibi yi se l’owo. Enikeni o le wole.   “Waaseere omo aiye, ori e pe.” “E se sir. Saaju, mo fe kee mo pe mi o ki n se asewo o. Bi ore yin se s’oro lo wo mi leti.” Otunba mi ori. “Emi gaan mo be.” “Iyen ikan, ki ni koko gan sir.”   Otunba dahun. “Sade Sade. Ma worry, iwo saa se mi daada. Maa to ju e.” “O daa o. Beyin Okunrin se ma n so niyen. O digba yen na ka to mo boya looto ni abi e kan n fumble lasan.”   Ka to wi ka to fo, Sade ba n’awo si sokoto Otunba. Wuye lo fa okun tu. “E ka aso yin s’oke.” Otunba ka dansiki e soke, o n w’oye nkan to fe sele.   Sade tu sokoto wale, o fa pata tele.   “Jeesu! Oko leleyi abi omo odo? Baba o! Jingosa re ke! Otunba bu s’erin. “Sade! Oko ni o, ki n se omo odo rara. Rora demo, mo mo pe ko tobi to bo se n ro yen.   Sade kunle siwaju Otunba, o fowo nu ori oko e bi eemeji. Ara Otunba se giri bi eni to te ina m’ole. “Se ko si sir?” “Rara o, owo e kan tutu ni.” “Otunba yi papa. Owo tutu, e je ki n gbe s’enu tan kee to mo bo se n lo.”   Bi Sade se gbe oko otunba s’enu niyen o, to bere si pon la bii omode to n la sweet onigi. Lati ibi fila ori e lo sisale nibi koropon, omo yen nla oko yen bii kaa si nkan. Otunba na n mi loke loke bi pee o n sare gun oke aja. Bee l’oun naa fowo pa Sade lori. Nigba ti ise ka lara tan, o fa omu kan jade, o n tee bi eni te fere.   Laipe laijina, Otunba gbin kiin. Ato ba tu puupuu s’enu Sade.   [color-box] Abiodun Awodele daily juggles the Lagos hustle with running his personal blog and trying to stay sane in an increasingly insane world. Prose (fiction) and poetry roll of his pen as the spirit directs and his first collection of short stories is expected to hit the shelves very soon. He blogs at Follow him on twitter @MASKURAID [/color-box]

Sector IV is a book set in the period of the Nigerian Civil war and the months just after it ends. A story of stories, the book runs through the lives (and sometimes deaths) of various individuals linked by a common fate in their bid to escape the distortions that wartime sorrow and pain visits on the lives of erstwhile normal and ordinary people. The book does not overly focus on the atrocities of war to create a horror fest or seek to apportion blame to any of the combating sides; rather, it simply takes us through the daily lives of the characters as they make choices concerning love, sacrifice, wealth, loyalty and patriotism with the war serving as a backdrop in a matter of factly manner. It tells of how the war irreversibly affects the lives of the main character Onyiyechi and the others, how it brings to the surface feelings of discontent which were normally hidden and tests their loyalties to loved ones, how it forces them to adopt pragmatic solutions to problems that would have otherwise proved awkward and inconvenient at other times. Love is lost and found, as is friendship, while death, sorrow and suffering become familiar visitors, ripping apart the cocoon of peace and hope which had been wrapped around their lives before the advent of the conflict. It also reveals how people are forced to re-evaluate their positions and make strange choices in the face of overwhelming odds, all in a bid to survive the harsh realities they are faced with during war time. As we find out, sometimes the choices they make don’t always turn out for the best. The book seamlessly fuses history with fiction and drives home its message beautifully with the author’s simplistic use of clear language. Account of events are written to enable the reader feel as if he/she is watching a movie, while the characters struggle to overcome all the challenges the war brings to their doorstep. It paints the interaction of the lives of the characters with the war in harsh vivid colors, letting it be known to everyone that reads that war is hell for all those who go through it, but there is hope for those who survive. It also subtly addresses domestic spousal issues, especially the usually silent but evident battle between both sexes for compromise and dominance and the right to take certain decisions based on differing viewpoints. You are breathlessly carried along as you live through Onyinyechi’s eyes, the challenges of a young adult female in a traditional society disrupted by war, how she deals with the consequences of the choices she makes concerning love, loss, duty and loyalty and her unwavering determination to survive all the ordeals with her humanity intact. It is my opinion that there are quite a few loose ends which the writer did not satisfactorily tie up. Whether this was deliberately done to leave room for a sequel is what we wait to find out. Also, the twist at the end although brilliant, robs the reader of closure. The book is particularly recommended for young adults – who were not born at that time but who have ‘romantic’ allusions of war, especially those who are part of the increasingly strident agitations for the sovereign state of Biafra – to read and understand why none of us should pray to relive the events of those dark days.   [color-box] Abiodun Awodele daily juggles the Lagos hustle with running his personal blog and trying to stay sane in an increasingly insane world. Prose (fiction) and poetry roll of his pen as the spirit directs and his first collection of short stories is expected to hit the shelves very soon. He blogs at Follow him on twitter @MASKURAID [/color-box]

When English singer and songwriter, Adele, released the sonorous ballad – Hello, little did she know that it was going to caught on like wildfire. Still topping global charts weeks after it release, the song shows no sign of slowing down. And as the song became more popular, other artistes jumped on the trend voicing different covers for the song. But hey, why should musicians be the only ones to enjoy the fun, can’t writers join in too? So inspired by Abiodun (@Maskuraid), for the next few weeks, we would be publishing short story covers inspired by the of the monster hit – Hello. And @Maskuraid sets the ball rolling…. Enjoy! ****** The doctor dropped his stethoscope and sat down, an indication that he was finally through with his very thorough and lengthy examination. Next he gave me a clean bill of health and said we were free to go home. “Are you sure Bode? Are you sure nothing is wrong with her?” Doctor Bode smiled reassuringly, his well-manicured fingers splayed out on the table separating him from myself and Dad. “One hundred percent positive sir, nothing is wrong with your daughter, you can take her home.” “What about the hallucinations then? Why is she seeing things where there are none?” “Sir, I’ve checked and rechecked her body for signs and I’ve also tested all her reflexes. Your daughter is fine. Smart young lady too if I may say….” Dad cut in impatiently before he finished, just as he always does when he thinks someone is digressing from the issue at hand.
“Iyen ko la n so jare ogbeni, that’s not why we’re here. Leave smartness alone and focus on why I brought her to you in the first place. A l’omo n so kati kati o n s’oro smart. I need to be sure nothing is wrong with my daughter before anything else. Can you assure me of that?”
Doctor Bode had been our family doctor for as long as I could remember, so Dad’s somewhat rude antics didn’t faze him one little bit. His benevolent smile just grew wider, and his eyes more reassuring. “Chief, I can categorically tell you that nothing is wrong with Tunmishe. It’s probably the stress of her upcoming bar exams that’s getting to her. I’m willing to bet she has not been getting enough rest lately due to her reading schedule, so I’ve instructed the nurse to give her some tablets to help her sleep. Once she takes those and gets some rest, she’ll be as right as rain. Trust me on this Chief.’’ “Okay o Doctor, I will if you say so but if you saw what I saw last night you would be worried too. I couldn’t wait for the day to break before rushing her here. However, since you say it’s rest she needs, then I will make sure she gets enough it. Exam kan o le wa s’omo l’ese fun mi, ti o ba see se l’odun yi a de se l’odun to n bo. It’s not like she hasn’t done enough to dust the exam sef.” Turning aside to face me, he continued speaking. “Sebi you heard him with your own ears Tunmishe. Please, take it easy o. Exams will come and go and I’m sure you’ll pass with flying colors. Mo fori iya e be e, jo o ma ko ba mi o.” I didn’t say anything, although I wanted to. Wisdom made me just sit there like a zombie, looking contrite and nodding gently repeatedly, waiting for him to finish so that we could go home. Eventually we left the office, Dad walking in front looking regal in his expansive white agbada with the doctor and his flapping white coat in tow. I followed, a few paces behind both of them. Doctor Bode accompanied us to the garage where both of them leaned against the smoothly tiled wall and spent some additional minutes animatedly discussing their teams’ exploits in the English Premier League. Dad loved his football and never missed any opportunity to discuss it with whoever was remotely willing, sometimes even with people who were not.  Finally he looked at his watch and realized that time was far spent. “Oshe gan ni Bode, maa tu ma a  ri e. I will definitely give you call you in a week or two at most. I think I want to come for my regular checkup a few weeks ahead of schedule sef. The way people are just succumbing to strokes and heart attacks left and right these days is a big cause for concern.  Ko ju ma ri bi, gbogbo ara loogun e.” “No problem Chief. Anytime you’re ready just call me. You know our doors are always open to you and yours, any day of the week.” “Oshee mister open door, hospital wa je bi t’eeyan a maa sere lo ni gbogbo igba abi, bi eatery or amusement park? Oloun ma je a r’aisan la n gba l’adura l’ojoojumo, and as if your fees are not exorbitant enough. Gbese re o!” Dad burst into loud laughter and Doctor Bode joined in. I watched disinterestedly from where I stood a few feet away. At last we said goodbye and got into the car, Dad as usual spread out at his preferred ‘owner’s corner’ while I deliberately chose to sit beside Nnamdi the driver,  to avoid being lectured by Dad about the need for adequate rest all the way home. The ploy didn’t deter him that much. ***** B3JQw He was waiting for me. Dressed in all-black attire and invisible to all but me, he sprawled just beside Tolulope on the living room sofa, his long legs stretched out in front of him as if he belonged there. His shoes peeking out from beneath the coffee table were black too. Tolu jumped up and ran to hug me immediately we entered, totally oblivious of his presence as usual, just like Dad and Nnamdi, who had followed us inside carrying Dad’s black leather bag. The black bag, very similar to those preferred by Jehovah’s witnesses on their evangelism forays accompanies Dad everywhere he goes, except maybe the shower and the toilet. It is always on the bed beside him while he sleeps. Maybe I should even start to call it mommy. He watched me greet Tolu. He watched me flop down on the single seat beside the water dispenser and fling my shoes carelessly in the direction of the rack near the visitor’s toilet. That habit used to annoy mom when she was still alive but now nobody cared. Tolu resumed her seat on the sofa and picked up the novel she had dropped earlier. He watched me pretend as if I didn’t know he was there, knowing I did. How could I not? Even if I wasn’t looking at him directly, his presence hummed silently through the air and touched my skin with its energy, making the fine brown hair stand on end. Who could ignore that? Just as I settled back into the welcoming seat to focus my attention on the ice skating event showing on television, he opened his mouth and started singing. It was that song again. I am okay, totally healthy and not hallucinating according to Doctor Bode. What then would explain Jude, sitting there as handsome as ever, dressed just like he was that night two years ago, when he died an untimely death on that dark and twisted campus road, a victim of my drunk and reckless driving. That song again, loud and hollow, it haunts me alone, just like the accusing look on his mangled face. “Hello from the other side…” ***** By @Maskuraid