Reading “The Ex-Mas Feast” in Kwani? evoked genuine feeling. There was something raw in the writing that made it extremely honest not to mention intriguing. Upon reading the first sentence of “The Ex-Mas Feast” in The New Yorker, I knew I wouldn’t be reading the same story. The entire structure was different. The first sentence exposed the focal point of the story as being about Maisha and structured the story around her, her prostitution and eventually her leaving the “household”. Although that version of the story is moving, there is something about the story in Kwani? that impacts me differently. It’s raw and untouched and the English isn’t perfect. I could close my eyes and hear the story as if someone was telling it to me, reaching into their history and retelling this part of their life. The images evoked from the Kwani? version are more powerful than those of The New Yorker. Which brings me to question the role of language and structure. Even though the Kwani? version of the story is written in English, it appears it isn’t good enough to be represented in The New Yorker in that same fashion. The question of authenticity comes to mind. Although I would usually argue this notion when something is translated across languages, it still seems relevant here. Can the story still be considered as authentic despite the numerous changes in style and structure? Perhaps my opinion would have changed had I read The New Yorker version first. If I had never been exposed to Kwani? Which begs the question who determines this hierarchy? And if Akpan’s story was the latter version, would Kwani? have included it in their journal? (Just looking at the cover of Kwani? and The New Yorker simultaneously give off entirely different vibes)
It also makes me question how many of the stories I am reading are the “original”. I don’t mean in terms of self-editing…but of someone coming in and botching the original work and creating what I am reading in order to fit their own agenda, or their publication’s agenda.