Freshwater, Akwaeke Emezi & La Staffa Rincrocca
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi & Rincrocca, by La Staffa
by Kim Kent
2 years ago
To translate the Igbo term ogbanje would necessitate me making assumptions about what you, the reader, know or don’t know, and providing correlations that are more familiar to me, the reader, but this process of binary translation runs counter to what Freshwater is doing—which, among many other breathtaking things, is its ability to hold multitudes. It’s a novel concerned with the metaphysical, which is perhaps the most universal theme of all: “we came from somewhere—everyone does.” I’ve always been drawn to writers who steer forcefully into the unknown, and Akwaeke Emezi is one such writer. Freshwater plunges the reader into the most unknown of our worlds—that “terrifying, beautiful thing”—our mind, and it does so with such force that reading it is to feel as if my body—no, my mind—is a swelling, churning thing, flicking me forward and back, like a tail curling in upon its mouth.
Freshwater dances nimbly in an in-between space. A doorway. A place “here and not here, real and not real,” that not all of us will understand. On a Post-it note stuck to my desk reads the line: “protect the doorways.” I can’t remember exactly when, its stickiness long since functional, or why I wrote it, but it remains important to my worldview nonetheless. Igbo and Odinani culture and religious beliefs are not of my ancestry. I make no claims to them, and yet the questions Freshwater asks are questions we all ask: how do we understand our role in the world?; what is the source of our light and shadow?; and if we keep the back of our brain open, listening, can we survive it?
This Rincrocca from La Staffa is a complex, many-minded wine. It’s “pure brightness” with a long nectarine, honeyed finish. To drink it is to feel everything “balanced for a brief velvet moment.” Verdicchio means “little green one,” which is less a translation than it is a shape: “moody, bright, a heaving sun.” For me, it’s a Verdicchio that slides around an easy description—making it, like this novel, a good thing to get lost in.
Akwaeke Emezi is a writer and video artist born, and currently living, in Nigeria. Freshwater is their debut novel and they have a forthcoming novel from Riverhead next month called The Death of Vivek Oji. Their website informs me that they are at work on their sixth novel, which is some of the best news I’ve heard in months. They have received many grants and awards for their work. Check out their website: you know how to do that.
La Staffa winery is situated in Staffalo, Marche in Italy. Just imagine it. They grow their Verdicchio grapes at 1,300 feet above sea level. Incidentally, Seattle is 175 feet above sea level, which is a fact I’ve been meaning to look up forever and finally just did. One thousand three-hundred feet is an ideal altitude for preserving the acidity of grapes. One hundred and seventy-five feet is not, but sometimes we get to smell that salt-air breeze, which is pretty great too. This is becoming less a bio than it is me being nostalgic about places, salty air, and where besides my floor I might like to drink this wine.