By Elisabeth Zelger
Published December 10, 2012
I find From Terror to Hope very interesting as it enlightens me on the historical African political background which I didn’t know about before. I believe a story with such a strong impression is a good way for me to start reading more about it. If the goal of the writer was to educate readers, he has succeeded!
A large part of the book plays during the escape of the narrator from the terror that engulfs his hitherto peaceful life. One thing I find very interesting in that part of the story is the forest and how the narrator makes his way through the forest, ” knowing the forest, talking about the types of trees and fruits it produces for human consumption. I believe, especially in the context of our globalised and urbanised society, that such knowledge that is often passed from one generation to another’ and with a very local perspective, such as the trees being different in a different section of the forest” can be applied to any part of the world. What I have in mind is people forgetting the connection between them and their natural environment in their own region.
The human suffering in From Terror to Hope–the story in which the faith of a 12-year-old boy in the supernatural and humanity is shaken to the core following some diabolical terror visited on him and his family–is intense and quite hard to grasp for any one born and raised in a peaceful environment.
In the second part of the book, the chapters covering the narrator’s life in the city and abroad, tackles the narrator’s biography, struggles and adaptability in the new environment. It is also a tale about what it really takes to succeed in life; does success depend on a string of good luck opportunities (for instance, the foreign reporter who links the narrator with her parents) or hard work (for example, the narrator’s at Columbia University)? What role do social structures, the networks and friendships one gets into play? How is ‘success’ defined? All the universities–Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Columbia–mentioned in the story are the tip of the mountains of a western ideal of success — a very economic aspect to life.
I think in the end this life story tells you that everything is possible, seeing the narrator speaking at the graduation ceremony from his long and almost incredulous story. But at the same time the story asks: what are the casualties along the way to ‘success’? What is your definition of ‘success’? How do you achieve that ‘success’?
I think that hard work is essential. And this ‘hard work’ depends on the type of goal you want to reach.
Anyway, that’s just my view as someone who, through the ‘Engaging with the Arts and Infrastructure of sub-Saharan Africa’ seminar, has had her really first in-depth contact with African issues on the whole. Talking to people at the seminar and reading From Terror to Hope has spurred my interest in reading more about the continent.
I think Ogova Ondego is a great writer with an engaging and compulsive story-telling style. I can hardly wait to read another book of his.
Elisabeth Zelger is Creative Futures International Fellow at Creative Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom.