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A Literary Icon Goes Home 

By Wache Henry Ndifon

— In 1988, he will start the Degree Programme in ENS Annexe Bambili, Bamenda, Cameroon, against all odds. He even arranged for extra classes on Saturday and Sunday. He called it in popular parlance; “Crash Programme”.

Late Asong

Then he started writing novels and joke books. He will later come out with two highly successful novels:  The ‘Crown of Thorns’ and ‘No Way To Die’. These two novels continue to tickle the minds of past ‘O’ Level Literature in English candidates and present ‘A’ Level literature in English students, respectively, as well as lovers of good stories and profound literary minds.

When I got news of Dr. Linus Asong’s death on Friday, July 20, I felt as though I was paralysed.  And this for two valid reasons:  firstly, Dr. Linus Asong taught me way back in 1985-1988; secondly, he developed a special intimate relationship with me because, as he put it, your literary approach to work of arts is engaging.  This grew along the way to something like father-and-son rapport.

He will ask one day in class as he shared out scripts: “Who is Wache Henry Ndifon, in this class?” Excited to be singled out unexpectedly, I shot up my hand. I had scored 16 on 20. He and his wife, Na Therese, will later throw a mini party for me for bringing them a BA from the University of Yaounde in the June session of 1988. 

Two of us, Joseph and myself had made it.  This anecdote is to show that Linus Asong means to me.  This explains why I find it hard to accept the fact that he is no more. It is a Herculean task to talk about a man, a teacher, a writer, a master, a mentor and a ‘big’ friend who was so multi-talented as Dr. Linus Asong . Like Dennis Nungam in No Way To Die, Linus Asong had a passion for drawing and painting.

I did observe this whenever I put up with him in his Foncha Street residence, along the lines as his writing career developed. He did cultivate a very high sense of plot, style in characterisation. And this is evident in some of his great works like The Crown of Thorns, No Way To Die and A Legend of the Dead, just to mention these three.

Linus Asong will be remembered for long for his enormous sense of humour – he mastered it so well that at times, one could be found laughing with him and also at him.  Yet it was born.  This is also true of Dennis Nungam – a fascinating literacy figure who shares much common in terms of sophistication with other characters like Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Othello, and Meursault in Albert Camus’ l’Etranger.

To Linus Asong “… in judging a novel, we are faced with the task of assessing, not only the author’s ability to create characters for instance, but also the values inherent in the characters and their behaviour.  It is the latter which enables us to say that one writer is a greater novelist than others.”

In the Chief, Achiebefuo, the D.O Ngobefuo in The Crown of Thorns as well as Dr. Essemo, Manda, Nungam, Dennis, Gertrude, in No Way to Die all combined, illustrate succinctly  for those who have read the books of course to what extent Asong is a writer of repute. It is evident (clear) that Linus Asong accomplished his artistic mission (and other missions too) on earth.  In an interview with Peter Tangie Suh Nfor, the Novelist affirms: “ …  I think I have actually realised my dream well beyond my expectations.”

So, adieu Prof Linus Asong. You came, saw and conquered. You did not only think about yourself, you though about the wretched of the earth, the exploited and the oppressed. It is in this light that you fulfilled Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s view that: “An individual has not started living until he can rise above  the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

It shows through his style, characteristisation and conception, that writers like Flaubert of the famous Madame Bovary, Kafka and William Faulkour, had a story influence on Linus Asong as a writer. In an interview with Chris Mbunwe of The Post Newspaper, two years before; Asong says he wrote one of his books while he ‘lying dying in the hospital.” This is reminiscent of  William Faukner’s book: ‘As I Lay

That Linus Asong has a strong sense of style is a foregone conclusion. Hear him in a chat with Chris Mbunwe of The Post: “Stylistically, all my novels are alike in that I make sure that the reader is held spell-bound until he/she comes to the last page. And, even when you come to the last page, you would want to know what happened after the book.  My power of description, too, continues to be relentless, and so also is my attitude towards characterisation.”

Like his imposing physique, when Linus Asong was still himself, you had to see him at the end of ‘T’ Junction, a watering hole on Commercial Avenue, Bamenda. He was, indeed, a “larger than life” person as he exchanged endless jokes with friends and foes. Contrary to the opinion people have of people from his Division of origin, Linus Asong was very open-handed and could land as many bottles of drinks as your stomach could hold. 

His loss will be felt in Cameroon and beyond – notably in both Ghana and Canada where he studied as well as in those countries where his books are in use.

First published in The Post print edition no. 01362

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