"The kitchen and bathroom will have to be cleaned today."
Master got up quickly and went into the study. Ugwu's confused fear made his eyelids quiver. Would Master send him home because he did not speak English well, id not know the strange places Master named ? Master came back with a wide piece of paper that he unfolded and laid out on thedining table, although the people who drew this map decided to put their own land on top of ours. There is no top or bottom, you see.
Master picked up the paper and folded it, so that one edge touched the other, leaving a hallow between. "Our world is round, it never ends. Nee anya, this is all water, the seas and oceans, and here's Europe our own continent, Africa, and the Cango is in the middle.Farther up here is Nigeria, and Nsukka is here, in the south-east, this is where we are." He tapped with his pen.
"Did you go to school ?"
"Standard two", sah. But I learn everything fast.
"Standard two? How long ago?"
"Many years now, sah. But I learn everything very fast!"
"Why did you stop school?"
"My father's crops failed, sah."
Master nodded slowly. "Why didn't yourfather find somebody to lend him your school fees ?"
"Your father should have borrowed!" Master snapped, anf then, in English, "Education is a priority! How can we resist exploitation if we don't have the tools to understand exploitation ?"
"Yes, sah!" Ugwu nodded vigorously. He was determined to appear as alert as he could, because of the wild shine that had appeard in Master's eyes.
"Iwill enrol you in the staff primary school, " Master said, still tapping on the piece of paper with his pen.
Ugwu's aunty had told him that if he served well for a few years, Master would send him to commercial school where he would learn typing and shorthand. She had mentioned the staff primary school, but only to tell him that it was for the children of the lecturers, who wore blue uniforms andwhite socks so intricately trimmed with wisps of lace that you wondered why anybody had wasted so much time on mere socks.
"Yes, sah", he said. "Thank, sah."
"I suppose you will be the oldest in class, starting in standard three at your age, " Master said.
"And the only way you can get their respect is to be the best. Do you understand ?"
"Sit down, my good man."
Ugwu chose thechair farthest from Master, awkwardly placing his feet close together. He preferred to stand.
"There are two answers to the things they will teach you about our land : the real answer and the answer you give in school to pass. You must read books and learn both answers. I will give you books, excellent books." Master stopped to sip his tea. "They will teach you that a white man called Mungo Parkdiscovered River Niger. That is rubbish. Our people fished in the Niger long before Mungo Park's grandfather was born. But in your exam, write that it was Mungo Park."
"Yes, sah." Ugwu wished that this person called Mungo Park had not offended Master so much.
"Odenigbo. Call me Odenigbo."
Ugwu stared at him doubtfully. "Sah?"
"My name is not Sah. Call me Odenigbo."
"Odenigbo willalways be my name. Sir is arbitrary. You could bo the sir tomorrow."
"Yes, sah - Odenigbo."
Ugwu really preferred sah, the crisp power behind the word, and when two men from the Works Department came a few days later to install shelves in the corridor, he told them that they would have to wait for Sah to come home ; he himself could not sign the white paper with typewritten words. He said Sahproudly.
"He's one of these village houseboys, " one of the men said dismissively, and Ugwu looked at the man's face and murmured a curse about acute diarrhoea following him and all of his offspring for life. As he arranged Master's books, he promised himself, stopping short of speaking aloud, that he would learn how to sign forms.
La scène est mise au début des années 1960.
"La cuisine et...