Viggo Mortensen's Bookshelf
By Chris Abani
This collection of poems might be hard to find. Abani was a prodigy; as a teenager, he wrote his first novel, but eventually somebody in the Nigerian government said he was a subversive, so he was thrown in jail for six months, where he was tortured. He wasn't a political person, but that experience woke him up. He became involved with other like-minded people and was imprisoned again. Abani is now a novelist and poet and teaches at the University of California, Riverside. In spite of his experiences, he doesn't seem bitter. Everybody suffers at some point or knows someone who suffers, and it's how you behave when things aren't going well that tells the most about your character. That's what impressed me—his grace and compassion in the face of suffering more horrible than most of us will ever even dream of experiencing. And he's turned it into art.