Charisma Pengani is the glory of the piece; that is, ‘The Case of Fire and Ice’ novel, the latest product from renowned Malawian creative writer and University of Malawi (Unima) Accounting graduate Gertrude Gomani.
‘The Case of Fire and Ice’ is her second novel after ‘Surviving the Lean Seasons’.
In the latest novel, 26-year-old Pengani conquers the first form of folly called ignorance and becomes a graduate quantity surveyor from the Unima.
He is, however, an individual who ridicules hardship, although life is not without drawbacks, and prefers the palatable side of life, which, under normal circumstances, comes with the acquisition of financial resources.
The truth, though, is that being greedy is his favourite pastime.
He, therefore, feels that precise geniuses at money-making are not found in the quantity survey profession but in non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which, apparently, Kenyans, Nigerians and Ghanaians are flourishing in.
Yes, the greatest supply of cash is poured, to a larger degree, in the non-State actors’ sector, protagonist Pengani is innately convinced.
Quantity surveying may have the effervescence, yes; but not the flavour that comes with hard cash.
This is how his brain wanders off from quantity surveying to other spheres of life; that is, NGO work, as learned through the novel and as espoused in the novel.
Gomani designs the novel in such a way that the protagonist is not even troubled with an uneasy feeling for abandoning an area in which he spent four years studying.
The key to hitting the jackpot is aligning NGO programmes to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and not thinking about four years spent studying quantity surveying in college. Simple.
Maybe what he thought was his love for anything quantity surveying was simply some faint, maybe transitory, semblance of love; but money is where his heart, the source of all love, is.
Gomani’s creation of the main actor in ‘The Case of Fire and Ice’ novel is such that he is not idiotic enough to get satisfied with being called a quantity surveyor while wallowing in poverty; he wants to become the subject of awe by swimming in the sea-of-cash.
Those who think themselves wiser than Pengani may complain of all this variation, but that is only as far as their prejudices may lead them. But, as far as reality is concerned, there is money in NGO work and Pengani wants to have a poke at it, as one pokes bees to displace them from the hive when in need of a handful of honey.
If the term education may be understood in so large a sense as to include all that belongs to the improvement of the mind, Pengani feels that it must also be understood as the enlargement of one’s financial territory.
That is how, before the first half of the novel, he arrives at the decision that there is a higher, and far more exalted, financial position in NGO work as opposed to quantity surveying.
In pursuit of cash, he quickly establishes a youth organisation that equips youths with leadership skills and, sooner rather than later, he wins an international youth award, giving him the chance to rub shoulders with the Queen of England.
His success soon turns into his Achilles Heel, as it culminates in him attracting unwanted attention, including that of 22-year-old Girl Emerald, who is attracted to Charisma’s fame and overnight success.
During an ill-fated meeting with Emerald, he attempts to force himself on her but Emerald has her lucky escape.
But that is not before the Unima graduate, during one of his escapades, impregnates an under-age girl and, fearing that his reputation would be thrown in the mud and, worse still, that he may get the unwelcome 14-year jail term his likes get as a whip from the legal courts, he can only watch as the girl blackmails him into giving her K500,000 every month. The cash is, surely, haemorrhaging out.
Desperate to be in currency, he engages witchdoctors who give him such things as owls and the like to, through black magic, keep his candle shining in the eyes of communities of interest and communities in general.
But, as they say, every dog has its day and, as such, the skies-of-problems start clearing up for him, especially after he meets the white woman Melissa Moore, who is four years older than him and almost twice his height.
She is meant to loom over him, literally, and cast a new light of cash on his cash-strapped life.
Still motivated by greed, he falls head over heels in love with her and, apart from getting the money he wants, fronting the unsuspecting Moore as an ally in money deals, he finds God as well and buys his peace— perhaps for eternity.
Gomani said she was happy to come up with her latest product, which is billed for launch next year.
“Writing comes naturally to me and I have a high sense of mission when it comes to writing. I would like people to be taught through the experiences of the characters in the novel. Through what happens to the characters, people should get some tips on how to avoid making bad decisions in life.
“Above all, I would like to put Malawi out there. Introduce it to the world. Make our heritage known,” she said.
Known for her most recent novel ‘Surviving the Lean Seasons’ which was published in January this year and is selling at only K2,000 in Montfort Media Bookstores across Malawi, Gomani said she chose the novel genre, the way Pengani chooses Moore, for a reason.
“A novel was chosen because novelisation would be the best option of telling the story. The novel spins across a period of a year or two, with a lot of subplots. I also find it easier to get my message across through the work of fiction because it allows me some flexibility and creativity. It would be a different case if it were a work of nonfiction,” says Gomani, who also counts Reminiscence— a collection of 24 short stories which is available only in electronic format on Amazon at $2.5 and in PDF format at K2,000— among her works.
One can hardly wait for the novel which, as alluded to earlier, is set for release next year.
Only then can fiction work lovers know exactly at which points there is, in ‘The Case of Fire and Ice’, a clear accumulation of mental exercise, and at what points there is none.