September 07, 2014

Every Day Is for the Thief by Teju Cole | Book Review

I finally got to read Teju Cole's curiously titled debut novel Every Day Is for the Thief. I hadn't gotten
very far in my reading when I rechecked the words on the book jacket to confirm that this was a fictional novel. I double-checked because at first Every Day Is for the Thief reads like Teju's personal account of a visit to Nigeria, complete with factual national tragedies. The first six chapters read like the travelogue of a "has-been" Nigerian recounting unfiltered observations of his home country after prolonged exposure to the near faultless system of a first-world country. It is a vivid telling of events that could be suitably titled "Diary of a Returned Nigerian" and used as ready source material for a TV documentary on the state of affairs in Nigeria.

Every Day Is for the Thief has a main character but it's also a lot about the country Nigeria. Nigeria is a notably embarrassing enigma. We know all the problems with Nigeria. We know the frustration experienced by Nigerians at the consulates, the rampant corruption all over the country, the energy problem we still have, the transportation problems, etcetera. Part of Teju's skill lies in the fact that all of this very familiar knowledge he deals with does not get boring. All our common Nigerian experiences, especially from living in the city of  Lagos, still remain the character's story without seeming overly rehashed. From the rousing sounds of a nearby mosque very early in the morning to the street smarts needed to survive the streets of Lagos, Teju captures it all very, very accurately. Lagosians get to relive their daily lives while outsiders get a graphic description of life in Lagos. Every Day Is for the Thief is evocative in all of its one hundred and sixty two pages. You should read it.

[Image via Amazon]

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