I really do have to thank Julianne and her #weirdathon for pushing me towards this book. It has been in my Scribd library for a while. An interesting looking book, a weird attractive enough cover, an African setting, a translated book. Lots of things going for it, but as it tends to be, once I add things to my TBR list, I just look elsewhere and end up reading other books.
But in Julianne’s list of achievements for the Weirdathon was to ‘read a book with a talking animal’. And there it was, that push to read this book.
Memoirs of a Porcupine is as its title suggests, narrated by a porcupine. But not any ordinary porcupine, this porcupine is the animal double of Kibandi. At the age of 11, Kibandi’s father takes him out into the night and makes him drink something vile that somehow triggers this bond with his animal double, a “harmful double”, the “liveliest, scariest kind of double”.
“the humans of whom we become the animal incarnation will cease to feel emotions like pity, understanding, empathy, remorse, compassion, night will enter their souls, once transmission has occurred, the harmful double must leave the animal world and come to live close to the initiate, performing his assignments without protest”
The porcupine soon becomes his master’s murder weapon, of sorts. He orders it to kill fellow villagers, those who wrongly cross his path, for the slightest of reasons.
The porcupine is telling this story to a baobab tree, some days after its master’s death, certain that it is due to die soon too. This porcupine is a rather amusing narrator, and it is a more readable book than I expected it to be. It does have some rather rambly bits, especially since the sentences are broken up by commas instead of full stops, and capitalizations at the start of sentences are nonexistent. But I got used to that (and I did read this as an ebook, which I’m not sure if that makes it worse) and quickly finished this quirky little book.
Is it a fable? I’m not entirely sure. Does it have a moral? Perhaps it is “don’t have an animal double”. But what I do know is that it was quite entertaining, pretty dark, somewhat comic and yet an uncomfortable read. A book that isn’t for everyone, but that drew me in with its strangeness, its different nature.