“The thing with hell is that often it is not. When its fumes are your air and its flames the light you see by, hell is the existence, your everything that is and could be. You become such a part of the inferno that you no longer see it, feel it—it becomes subliminal. In this hell one boils, like a toad in cauldron, oblivious to the end. Except if the have-beens get to you. They are the escaped chinks of light who have been out to other realms, have seen better things, better promises, but now are back with tall tales of other hells closer to heaven, sowing questions. Misery results from listening to them,” Kenechi Uzor begins.
Kenechi Uzor explores the question that often occupies every migrant travelling to land of many dreams: America. The voice in the story is a Nigerian who compares the ‘hellish condition’ of his homeland with elsewhere. The elsewhere, which is America, is at first an imaginary paradise for every migrant. However, the reader is taken on wheels into a far journey of what America is to the new arrival. The narrator remarks, “America, at first, did not look like hell. Its heat was subtle and creeping and polite with smiley pretensions, and its light a dazzling distraction, inoculating all to an indifference toward demise. But it was outside and ahead of Nigeria, which is what heaven always is to the inhabitants of lower hells.”
The non-fiction continues to broaden the migration discourse that has overtaken African literature: a refreshing narrative answering more questions about what America really is as the case made in Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanah. To Uzor, “This is where we’ve come, the legion that escaped one hell for another. This is where I’ve come, to the America of lights and dreams. And if I am better off I cannot tell.”
You can read the full story here.