Burning Grass by Cyprian Ekwensi

The story revolves around a series of adventures involving the Fulani Sunsaye family, particularly, Mai Sunsaye, head of the household and chief of Dokan Toro. Mai Sunsaye rescues a slave-girl, Fatimeh from the servant of a rough man known as Shehu. With the appearance of Fatimeh in the family, its existence turns topsy-turvy, leading Shaitu, Mai Sunsaye’s wife to view her as bad luck. First, Rikku, Mai Sunsaye’s youngest son seems to have fallen in love with Fatimeh who is much older than him. Hodio, Rikku’s brother, and Mai Sunsaye’s second son, however, runs away with Fatimeh, leaving Rikku love-sick. Mai Sunsaye vows to do anything possible to make Rikku feel better. During that same period, Mai Sunsaye’s rival to the throne of Dokan Toro, Ardo, casts a spell on Mai Sunsaye by the aid of a talisman bound to the leg of a “grey-breasted” and “red-toed” “Senegal dove”. The spell, known as the “sokugo” or the “wandering sickness” is a magic charm that “turned studious men into wanderers, that led husbands to desert their wives, Chiefs their people and sane men their reason”. Under the sway of this wanderlust-inspiring spell, Mai Sunsaye is launched into several adventures, in the course of which he crosses path with Jalla, his oldest son, and other characters, including Baba, an old man he meets in the deserted village of Old Chanka (which was evacuated by the British authorities, and its inhabitants relocated to New Chanka, due to an outbreak of the tse-tse fly, the vector of the sleeping sickness, and a herds-woman known as Ligu, “the champion cattle-herder”. At the close of the novel, most of the family is reunited once more in Dokan Toro, and Mai Sunsaye finally dies.

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