Titi Horsfall recently launched her new novel, From an Orphan to a Queen Esther, a bible-based story of a Jewish girl, who became a queen in a foreign land and did great things like her great forebear, Moses. In this interview with ANOTE AJELUORU, Horsfall highlights the significance of the Esther story in modern times. She sees it as a product of her environment, a poor girl who rose to overcome challenges through God’s help and which should serve as example for modern-day individuals for their respective societies
In projecting Esther in fiction, were you responding to a need to create heroines for a world largely dominated by men?
On the contrary, the story projects hope to anyone who is under the impression that life gave him or her, the short end of the stick. The circumstances in which Esther grew up were most pitiful and disheartening. Through conscious acceptance of her ‘silver linings’-that is, identifying and preserving the ‘good’ in her bad situation, she secured her future.
Some are born great, but encase their dreams within the limiting circumstances around them. We are to believe in ourselves and what God has put into us. We can all aspire for greatness; for there is a drop of greatness and a seed of favour in every man, irrespective of gender. Even our President Goodluck Jonathan exhibits this Esther story: rising from a repressible foundation to a height of unimaginable glory. Esther is, therefore, a person worth celebrating, irrespective of her sex. She lived an exemplary and outstanding model of life.
What do you expect your readers to take away from the life of Esther?
While the novel is on Esther’s life, her exploits were not achieved in isolation. She worked in tandem with people who I would call, “helpers of destiny”; people who keyed into a single vision and persevered to see its realization. The various characters in the novel throw in our path many life lessons. Many consider this novel to be a life manual.
On Esther in particular, she is a product of a good heritage. In local terms, we would say, “she is a well brought up girl”- train up a child in the way s/he should grow and when s/he is old, he or she will not depart from it. This is an advice to all parents. This was what God was projecting to all parents. Have you considered the fact that God could not risk sending just any maiden to the palace to fulfill His purpose? It had to be someone who would not be entrapped by the palace grandeur and lewdness which harem life may stir up. In maintaining a purposeful and Godly life, Esther was a good candidate for God’s use.
We are not Nigerians by mistake. We were born for a purpose and it is my hope that in our individual and collective yearnings, we will find, understand and fulfill our purpose.
Why did you choose to fictionalize Esther’s story instead of through pamphleteering?
Pamphlets show a writer’s opinion or partisan stand on an issue. My writing is not aimed at portraying a female leader (if you want to consider this as an issue, of which I may be making a case for). I fictionalized the story of Esther in much the same way an anthropologist would visit the ancient ruins of Persia, take up all the factual evidences on ground and attempt to re-enact and explain the kind of society in which Esther lived in.
Fictionalizing Esther’s story came to the fore through inspiration. There are the facts, as laid down in the Bible. There are further evidences recorded in secular history. Then, there are the expected interplays in human engagements as seen in everyday living. Herein, lies the fiction.
How did you manage to achieve a recreation of the world Esther lived in at the time?
Recreating Esther’s world was a journey through a time capsule. I looked into history to determine the exact time scale and geography, and then fit in the bits as they relate to the landscape - weather, architecture, food, clothing, names, culture, customs and traditions. The rest, however, is not history. As the legendry Gabriel Okara puts it, “This century old biblical story has been brought to life and relevance, for lovers of good literature”.
Critics might question Esther’s ambition for her son as ungodly, in view of the strife it engendered... What is your response?
Let me point out that the absence of strife in one’s life is not an indication of the presence of God. Strife may sometimes push us to our places of glory. That said, leaders are generally chosen by God. Years before Esther’s son was born, it had been prophesied by Isaiah that a king chosen of God will restore his people to the land of their fathers. Did this happen? Yes. Esther was just an instrument to serve that purpose, with the storyline further portraying a basal human instinct to preserve self and lineage.
What Esther quality does modern society lack? How can this be remedied?
Esther displayed great humility. She was humble enough to take direction and advice even as a queen. When she was crowned queen, her outlook on life did not change. She was still in touch with who she was and what her people meant to her.
As a society, we should believe in ourselves and play our respective roles in securing our future, positively. No matter how we are created, we are meant to complement ourselves in building strong frontiers.
What other literary projects are you working on?
I have a few ideas, which I am contemplating. For now, what is foremost is listening and sharing with my readers, on how this novel is transforming their outlook on life.