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Oil on Waterby Helon Habila
Synopses & Reviews
In the oil-rich and environmentally devastated Nigerian Delta, the wife of a British oil executive has been kidnapped. Two journalists--a young upstart, Rufus, and a once-great, now disillusioned veteran, Zaq--are sent to find her. In a story rich with atmosphere and taut with suspense, Oil on Water explores the conflict between idealism and cynical disillusionment in a journey full of danger and unintended consequences.
As Rufus and Zaq navigate polluted rivers flanked by exploded and dormant oil wells, in search of "the white woman," they must contend with the brutality of both government soldiers and militants. Assailed by irresolvable versions of the "truth" about the woman's disappearance, dependent on the kindness of strangers of unknowable loyalties, their journalistic objectivity will prove unsustainable, but other values might yet salvage their human dignity.
"In Habila's stirring third novel (after Measuring Time), a pair of Nigerian reporters are dispatched to find the kidnapped wife of a British oil executive. Young Rufus and his disgraced mentor, Zaq, track the wife's captors — guerrilla forces fighting against the petroleum industry and its government allies — through the lush Nigerian delta, wandering along oil-slicked rivers, villages destroyed by war, and communities evicted by a land-hungry oil company. Rufus, whose own family has been shattered by the oil industry's machinations, bears witness to pointless cruelties inflicted by both sides of the conflict and the suffering of a population uprooted and set adrift on a desecrated landscape. The novel is a cinematic adventure and a remarkably tense race against the clock set in a haunting world of mangroves, floating villages, and jungle shrines — but it is also a brooding political tragedy in the Graham Greene tradition, one that illustrates the environmental and human costs of resource extraction in corrupt, postcolonial Africa. The delta and its people are rendered with insight and sensitivity, but also an unsparing sense of irony; indeed, it's a credit to Habila's storytelling that his mournful vision of the world never eclipses its fragile beauty, or its humanity. (May)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"The new generation of twenty-first-century African writers have now come of age. Without a doubt Habila is one of the best."--Emmanuel Dongala
About the Author
Helon Habila is the internationally renowned author of Waiting for an Angel, which won both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Caine Prize for African Writing, and Measuring Time and Oil on Water. He was born in Nigeria and now divides his time between America and Nigeria.
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