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Monday, March 31, 2014

Every Day is For the Thief: A Novel

I enjoyed Open City, Teju Cole's novel that came out a few years ago, so I quickly jumped on his new novel, Every Day is For the Thief.

Going home is never easy. As it is for our narrator who returns home to Lagos, Nigeria from New York after many years away. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the people--it is all just as he remembers yet so disparate from his current life. He navigates his old life, attempting to reconcile it with his current. Time passes, we grow and change, yet our homes remain the same. How do we find equilibrium in this process?

Cole's writing style is as if you are watching an old-school Cassavettes film. (I am specifically speaking of Shadows for all of you film buffs.) He tells the story but there is a feeling of removal that goes beyond the telling of a work in third person (this is actually told in first); it is almost as if a scrim has fallen over the work and I am ten steps back from the process. I really enjoy this, though, and it reminds me of what it feels like to be a stranger in a foreign land where you don't know the customs, you don't speak the language, and you can't read the signs. This terrifying sense of disequilibrium is exactly how I felt when I stepped off the train in Bratislava, Slovakia, and I sincerely appreciated Cole's harking back to that memory for me.

My absolute favorite scene in this book...okay, well, there are two. The first is the opening scene when our protagonist goes to obtain a passport from the Nigerian embassy, and the challenge that goes with obtaining such desperately needed documents from a place whose far-reaching corruption extends even to the shores of this great nation. My other favorite scene was the witnessing of the Nigerian money scheme, the one that we have all seen and experienced in our own email inboxes. He watches this take place up close and personal, and the description of the process, the time and effort that goes into this scam, and watching those who are caught, shaken down, then go back at it again is fascinating and mind-bending.

Hard copy version only below.  

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