Waiting for an Angel By Helon Habila

Helon Habila is a poet and a prose writer who grew up in Gombe, Nigeria. When he was a boy, it was the time when Gombe was recovering from a civil war. His father, who used to work at the Nigerian Ministry of Works, dreamed Habila to be an engineer. But he gave up that dream when he began giving Habila some romance literature and Arabic classics. Instead of concentrating on Nigeria, Habila spent most of his time traveling in different places. He also had read great books from famous Nigerian writers like Chinua Achebe and Ben Okri.

While reading books, Habila also learned the mastery of story telling. In his primary school, his teacher noticed his talent and asked him to tell stories in other classes. After secondary school, Habila took a degree in engineering at Bauchi University of Technology in Nigeria. But after a year, he dropped out and shifted to College of Arts and Science. However, he still did not become satisfied and quit school permanently. Habila found his life going nowhere when he got a copy of a novel by E. M. Forster, the Aspects of the Novel. This novel took him back to his passion for literature.

He then spent his time in his room reading and writing. During the period he was starting his new life, his father and his brother died in an accident. This time, he entered again another university to study English and Literature. Finally, he succeeded. For two years, he became an assistant lecturer at Federal Polytechnic at Bauchi. During his stay there, he had written two literary pieces, a biography of a chief and a rough copy of a novel entitled “Prison Stories”. It was all about entwined stories of a young journalist during the regime of General Abacha.

When the democracy was regained in Nigeria, Habila pursues his writing career. By the year 2000, he had already won two big awards: the MuSon Poetry Festival Prize for his “Another Age” and Liberty Bank Prize for “The Butterfly and the Artist”. Habila also won the Commonwealth Writers Prize last 2003 for his novel Waiting for an Angel. His latest novel as of today is the Measuring Time (Bures). The Setting The setting of the novel “Waiting for an Angel” is in Nigeria during 1990s. During this era, the state was dominated and ruled by sadistic brutality.

Also, violence on human rights is very prevalent in the country. Nigeria was barred from Commonwealth of Nations. Additionally, almost all countries have charges against Nigeria. This was the situation when the novel took place. The military or dictatorial government of General Sani Abacha eradicated the critical thinking of the countries’ gifted writers and scholars (Whipple). The Characters The main character of the story is Lomba. He is a journalist and an aggravated novelist who was in prison during the first part of the chapter. He writes poems secretly during his incarceration.

His roommate, Bola, loses sanity after his family died. Bola also experienced brutality from the hands of the police officers. Mauftu is a superintendent in Lomba’s prison. When he found out the love poems written by Lomba, the jailer asked him to write verses for the girl he was courting, Janice. Janice is a teacher being pleaded by Lomba to save him. However, the teacher cannot save him even she knows Lomba’s troubles. James Fiki is the editor of “The Dial”, the publication where Lomba was working. Kela is a student and Lomba’s neighbor in Poverty Street.

Kela learned the postcolonial history in Nigeria through his English teacher who is an activist and through his other encounters. Alice is Lomba’s first love. However, their love story did not have a happy ending because Alice obligatory married a rich man so that she can pay the hospital bills of her mother. Joshua Amusu was a teacher and an activist who asked Lomba to cover his demonstration against a fraudulent government. The Plot Helon Habila portrays the novel “Waiting for an Angel” taking place during the regime of General Sani Abacha, when turmoil and violence is on the rise.

The story introduced Lomba as an idealistic student in Lagos who attempts to write novels in his apartment in Morgan Street while working for the newspaper, the Dial. Shortly, his roommate Bola was attacked and beaten by police officers during that time along with other journalists. Meanwhile, offices of Dial were also burnt. After the entire incidence, Lomba chooses to participate in prodemocracy protest. During the demonstration, he was seized and put into jail for three years. This novel was narrated in a flashback.

It started with Lomba’s situation in jail and finished with highlight events going to his detention (Zaleski) References: Jeff Zaleski. “Waiting for an Angel. ” Rev. of: title_of_work_reviewed_in_italics, clarifying_information. Publishers Weekly 9 Dec. 2002: 61. ABI/INFORM Global. ProQuest. ***INSERT Library name or system, City, State***. 14 Aug. 2007 http://www. proquest. com/ Bures, Frank. Everything Follows: An Interview with Helon Habila. 14 August 2007 <http://www. pw. org/mag/0301/bures. htm>. Whipple, Mary. Waiting for an Angel. 01 June 2004. 14 August 2007 <http://www. mostlyfiction. com/world/habila. htm >.