Teju Cole’s Open City is one of my favorite novels of recent years, so I was psyched when Every Day Is for the Thief (which is kinda sorta his latest—it was published nearly a decade ago in Nigeria) showed up in the mail earlier this week. I read the first fifty pages yesterday (about a third of this short book). Thief reads like a memoir-essay, its reportorial style engaged and critical but at times obliquely distant. Our unnamed narrator (surely an iteration of Cole himself) returns “home” to Lagos after fifteen years in New York. Interspersed are Cole’s black and white photographs (echoes of Sebald). Full review to come; for now, publisher Random Houses’ blurb:
A young Nigerian living in New York City goes home to Lagos for a short visit, finding a city both familiar and strange. In a city dense with story, the unnamed narrator moves through a mosaic of life, hoping to find inspiration for his own. He witnesses the “yahoo yahoo” diligently perpetrating email frauds from an Internet café, longs after a mysterious woman reading on a public bus who disembarks and disappears into a bookless crowd, and recalls the tragic fate of an eleven-year-old boy accused of stealing at a local market.
Along the way, the man reconnects with old friends, a former girlfriend, and extended family, taps into the energies of Lagos life—creative, malevolent, ambiguous—and slowly begins to reconcile the profound changes that have taken place in his country and the truth about himself.
In spare, precise prose that sees humanity everywhere, interwoven with original photos by the author, Every Day Is for the Thief—originally published in Nigeria in 2007—is a wholly original work of fiction. This revised and updated edition is the first version of this unique book to be made available outside Africa. You’ve never read a book like Every Day Is for the Thief because no one writes like Teju Cole.