Sunday, October 16, 2016

Redefining writing categories: Teju Cole, Every day is for the thief

An unnamed Nigerian doctor in residence in the US is coming back for a couple of weeks in his country after 15 years of absence. From the moment he is landing until the return, he keeps a clear mind to observe everything that he sees around, from the small attention asked at the airport until the 'yahoo yahoo' - scam - letters people are writing in an Internet cafe. He revisits old friends and illusions of love and chat with his family, all of them identified by their name. Coming back to a country where the childhood memories are set is like revisiting a magic land, but as often happens, this exploration has the poisonous risk of leaving you without the magic and with altered memories of the idealized past.  
The story unfolds as a memoir with some alert travel observations, but it is a work of fiction we are offered, although we can easily give a name to the storyteller. The fictional construction uses the hopeless Nigerian reality - in the country where people were recently labelled as one of the happiest in the world - and elements of everyday life to build a fictional story, with autonomous characters sharing a life of their own. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter that much the assigned literary category, but the art of writing. And in this respect, I didn't read for a long time a book with such clear writing, where simple words are enough to express simple or complex feelings, trying to understand human behavior and political craziness. The tone is often changing, from irony to deep sadness and the sense of ending. The volume is accompanied by the black-and-white author's photos, which deepens the elegiac tone of the novel. 
Rating: 5 stars

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