This year there are three Nigerians on the Commonwealth Book Prize shortlist. The burgeoning literary scene shows no signs of stopping and many young nigerian writers will no doubt be inspired.
Sarah House, Ifeanyi Ajaegbo (Nigeria)
Pan Macmillan South Africa
Ifeanyi Ajaegbo is a development consultant and communications practitioner who lives and works in Port Harcourt in Nigeria. His writing has won awards and fellowships, including the 2005 African regional prize for the Commonwealth Short Story Competition. Sarah House is his first novel.
Nita wakes up one night to discover herself in a dark world very different from the life of opportunities promised to her by Slim, the man she loved and trusted to take her away from the small island town of Opobo, Nigeria. Soon she realises she is a slave, bought and sold without her consent and forced into a life of prostitution and sleazy strip clubs.
Every day Nita walks a tightrope of survival surrounded by vicious pimps and thugs. She meets Tega, a fellow slave lured into prostitution by Slim; she is sold to Madam, who runs Sarah House and makes money from young girls and children; she finds favour with Chief, an influential politician who provides protection for Madam’s illicit business in human trafficking, and she must survive Lothar, a renegade porn film maker. Life in this nightmare world gets more complicated when Nita meets pretty, young Damka and is approached by a police detective working undercover.
When Damka disappears and Nita discovers the child’s bloodied clothes in a room in Sarah House, she knows she has to work with the police in spite of the dangers to her own life.
The Spider King’s Daughter, Chibundu Onuzo (Nigeria)
Faber and Faber
Chibundu Onuzo was born in Nigeria in 1991 and is the youngest of four children. She is currently studying History at Kings College, London. When not writing, Chibundu can be found playing the piano or singing.
The Spider King’s Daughter is a modern-day Romeo and Juliet set against the backdrop of a changing Lagos, a city torn between tradition and modernity, corruption and truth, love and family loyalty. Seventeen-year-old Abike Johnson is the favourite child of her wealthy father. She lives in a sprawling mansion in Lagos, protected by armed guards and ferried everywhere in a huge black jeep. But being her father’s favourite comes with uncomfortable duties, and she is often lonely behind the high walls of her house.
A world away from Abike’s mansion, in the city’s slums, lives a seventeen-year-old hawker struggling to make sense of the world. His family lost everything after his father’s death and now he runs after cars on the roadside selling ice cream to support his mother and sister.
Sterile Sky, E.E. Sule (Nigeria)
E. E. Sule is the pen-name of Dr. Sule E. Egya who is an associate professor in Department of English, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai, Nigeria. Besides published academic work and essays, Dr. Egya is the author of the short story collections Impotent Heavens and Dream and Shame, and the poetry volumes Naked Sun, Knifing Tongues and What the Sea Told Me. His poems, short stories, and critical work have appeared in numerous journals, anthologies and literary magazines. Sterile Sky is his first novel.
As the gifted young Murtala comes of age in Kano, violent riots and his family’s own woes threaten to erase all he holds dear. Stalked by monsters real and imagined, desperate to preserve a sense of self and the future, Murtala hunts for answers in the wreckage of the city – and gives us a unique insight into modern life in northern Nigeria.
Photo: Nicolas Raymond