Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Teju Cole’s Every Day is for the Thief

Teju Cole’s Every Day is for the Thief is a novel, but it has almost no plot; large sections of the book are devoted to chronicling the various dysfunctions of Nigerian society in a style that reads like non-fiction.

But these explorations are, in themselves, fascinating. The narrator, away from Nigeria in America for fifteen years, returns, and can see the country with a crisp, discerning eye. So, we get to see the culture from a double edged perspective. While the reader would be totally on the outside (unless you are Nigerian) Cole’s narrator is between two worlds, and conversant in both.

His prose is simple and without embellished. Cole is not doing anything interesting with language. The hold of this novel is its subject matter: the laying out of a place where nothing works, and people simply try to live on with this knowledge. Even simple ventures are difficult in Nigeria (like riding the bus). So, Cole gives us a seat on that bus, and allows us to see how so many people in our world do, day by day.

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