A New Novel by John Oliver Killens Arrived 30 Years After His Death


Killens’ Africa is a cartoon that would otherwise be disturbing. But “Minister First” is not a book about Africa. This is America and the author has a lot to say about his homeland, starting with “Jimmy Johnson’s Poop Sheet for Jungle Travel” that the fake prime minister wrote the night before his Washington visit and handed out half a closet. will travel with him. In “The Land of the Thief and the home of the slave,” he writes (on loan from WEB Du Bois) white Americans are “citizens.” Black Americans are “subjects”. A white man driving a Cadillac is “rich,” while a Black one is “a conspicuous consumer, rude, stupid, loud, etc.”

As soon as they land in America, the dignitaries are greeted by several bands playing “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” and then they go to the White House, where the president serves them whiskey in the evening, and then some more whiskey and “This is a social evening, Mr. “Prime Minister Meneceter, but I want you to know that we think of your fuh-fuh-fuh-wonderful country as a bulwark of democracy against godless communism,” he says. And he continues: “And we are ready, willing and able to give any financial, educational, technical assistance, with some democratic provisional provisions and guarantees and free world commitments, but without any conditions.” Then he clears his throat and explains, “We’re particularly prepared to help you get that cobanium off the ground as quickly as possible.”

There is also entertainment along with Realpolitik. Arriving in New York, the Guanaans go to Harlem and Queens, Jamaica, and (of course) Lolliloppi, Miss. More than just telling a good story, Killens wants to see grown men transformed. Inspired by Southern hospitality (and a warning from the president in Washington that nothing should disrupt the smooth development of Guanaya-American relations), Lolliloppi’s former white supremacists discover their hidden humanity. It is as if the white Southerners the Guanayans encountered, led by their false prime minister, had been touched by a magic wand; As a result of the African visitation, they began to refer to the mayor of Lolliloppi as governor and even president.

He read the Killens Shakespeare. Here you are with “The Minister First”, “The Storm” and “The Comedy of Mistakes” with their surprises and false identities. The choreography of the set pieces has a radiant warmth expressed as passionately as disarming, approaching the reader with such skill that you hardly notice that you are being followed by a master. Killens’ writing about sex, both the emotional tsunami and the all-encompassing sex genre, should be used in creative writing courses across the country.

His love for African America has a generous form filled with pride. But the strongest message Killens has to deliver is that lessons come in all shapes and sizes. Humor and satire are often stronger than sermons or political finger-wagging. “Minister First” probably cannot be written today. Amid the growing toxic discourse about race and politics, we forgot what we learned about laughter being the best medicine. Pity more.


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