A couple of years ago I mentioned “teju cole, a temporary blog reporting on a visit home by a Nigerian long resident in the U.S.; it’s full of beauty, sadness, and keen observations on life in Nigeria and in general,” adding “I recommend it to your attention before it vanishes away at the end of the month.” Towards the end of the month I provided a few extended quotes in this post, and I figured that would be the end of it—anyone who didn’t catch it during its brief run was out of luck.
But Cassava Republic Press, based in Abuja, Nigeria, and aiming “to make quality contemporary literature available to the West African market at an affordable price,” has published Every Day is for the Thief, a novel based on the contents of the blog, and I’m here to report that it holds up excellently well in permanent form (with lovely photographs presumably by the author). The publisher says “His subtle and nuanced prose explores themes as diverse as the minor joys of daily Lagosian existence to the crudities of contemporary forms of corruption”; the Author’s Note says “What could possibly be said about this most complex of cities that could compete with the reality?… I have sought to capture a contemporary moment in the life of the city in which I grew up.” I love cities and descriptions of them, and I love good prose, and I relished this small, intense book more than I can say. (And it has an epigraph from the wonderful poet Maria Benet, whose book Mapmaker of Absences I celebrated here and whose poem “A Dish of Peaches in Cluj” was the occasion for what is still perhaps my favorite LH thread ever.)
I don’t know if you can come by a copy of the novel outside of West Africa, but if you make the effort It’s available at Amazon.com; if you give it a try, you won’t regret it.
By the way, the book is written in perfectly standard English, but there are a few local terms, one of which gave me a fair amount of trouble, so I’ll share the results of my research with you in case you wind up reading it. On p. 14, as the author arrives in Lagos and has to deal with “passport control and baggage claim,” he notes that “One janded man argues with a listless customs official about the inefficiency.” At first I thought “janded” might be a typo, but I couldn’t think what was intended and the book is remarkably well proofread, so I did some intensive internet work and determined that Jandon is Nigerian slang for London and “janded” refers to Nigerians who have gone to study or live in England. (If my tentative definition is incorrect, I trust those who know will correct me.)