2ND EDITION: EDITORIAL, May 2020 (Guest Editor: Prof. Ismail Bala)

Journals and reviews such as The Nigeria Review have traditionally been one of the more arbitrary, more convenient, even pretentious “gauges” with which thriving national literatures, such as Nigerian Literature, are measured. A major objective of a review is often the attempt at “bringing back” into print (in case of legacy/hard back reviews and journals) essays and literary pieces that have appeared in the more ephemeral media such as newspapers, magazines. This revival and preservation that reviews and journals often enact is done with a certain level of authority, either bestowed by the qualification and competence of the editor, the nature, extent and/or literary excellence of the selection of literary pieces published therein; or indeed by the literary event that the review is marking or making. Another significant role of reviews is in the contentious field of canon formation, since journals have always had an ideological purpose of one form or another behind them.

Reviews recognise and as such respond, or seek to respond, to diversity, often claiming to be deploying some quasi-nationalistic or universal criteria of some kind which is (supposed to be) applicable, at least in theory, if not in practice, to all kinds of writings everywhere. And for that reviews almost always offer the readers as much as possible, in terms of their content and the wish to assert the wealth and range of writings and pieces collected there, which, to all intents and purposes, encourage the use of multiple forms of values, an openness to variety of writings, which is to be read according to different protocols of reading with different forms of evaluation attached.

Each piece in a review or journal, like the one you are reading on your device, would have to be read according to its level of accomplishment, according to its thematic relevance: whether it measures up to or not. Therefore, it is pertinent that reviews closely raise the question of philosophical, theoretical, even cultural values, which, unfortunately, cannot receive much discussion in the reviews themselves (or their editorials), given the unwieldy nature and amenability or otherwise of literature to such discourses. Perhaps for this reason it is very easy and quite appropriately so to attack or deride reviews for what they include as much as for what they leave out; for their perceived weakness or success.

And as it is often the case, literary reviews usually stake a large claim to the effect that they represent and subsume, in some ways, the values (and ethos) of a particular literary culture at a specific time in history. It follows, consequently, that reviews are also the contextual sites for the proposing and propagating of new literary values. Via journals implausible if not tendentious claims are made for the uniqueness and historical significance of a certain literary values with which reviews are associated.       

Nigeria Review may not have possibly (even if its editors wanted to) attempted such a sweeping, vague claim of representing a new literary tendency setting in; or new literature of a period establishing itself within its confines. Indeed, it is not claiming any rhetorical stance. But certainly, it seeks to follow the apostolic succession of previous reviews with the same objectives.

Specifically, reviews and journals of and about Nigerian writing have, by far, played an important role in the development of Nigerian Literature, right from the pioneering cyclostyle magazines of students’ writings, such as the patronizingly titled Nigerian Student Verse (published in the then University College, Ibadan in the 1950s), to the more recent Okike, Glendora and so on, among others.

Nigeria Review follows in the footsteps of those disparate publications. Given what one could call the stagnation and waning of reviewing, as well as the absence of rigorous writing and publishing tradition in Nigeria, the publication of this second volume of what is envisaged to become a bi-monthly offering is a tremendous achievement.      

 Like the other reviews, The Nigeria Review displays a fluctuating degree of “value criteria” upon which journals depend on, albeit with an equally varying degree of success: there is “novelty” (since it contains “new” writings); “representativeness” (it draws contributions from across the country, and it also effaces, subtly, the division between writing and criticism); “inclusiveness” (the sheer range and variety); and “exclusiveness” (not following a laid down style or tradition).

Generously offered in these pages are reviews and essays, which, like their writers, are diverse in their style as they are in their preoccupations with different and differing topics and concerns, supporting the fact that some excellent level of writing and interest in it is going on in Nigeria, despite some evidence to the contrary.