July 15, 2015

Every Day is for the Thief by Teju Cole

Teju Cole won every prize under the sun for his first book, Open City. I haven't read that one, so I don't know how Every Day is for the Thief compares, but I thought it was a fantastic book. It's called a novel but surely has lots of autobiographical elements, as it's set in Nigeria, where the author was born, and the details are so intimate that you can't imagine them being imaginary. I read about this author in a book about transnational literature that I was editing.

I don't normally like reading about Africa, and I wouldn't say I outright enjoyed this, because it has some horrible stuff about how Nigeria operates and how cruel the people can be. I would have liked to say it was about Nigeria 50 years ago, but it's current, and the day I finished it I read a news story about a ghastly cruelty in Nigeria which resulted in hundreds of deaths. The main theme of the book is graft. According to the story, bribery is endemic all over Nigeria and protection payments are common. Even an ordinary person just trying to get from one street to another might be accosted and told to "share the wealth" and that they'll be killed if they don't pay. I'm trying to remember that this is a novel, but it didn't seem so.

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