cover image Taduno’s Song

Taduno’s Song

Odafe Atogun. Pantheon, $24.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-101-87145-4

Uniting a retelling of the Orpheus myth, an indictment of totalitarian inhumanity, and a Kafkaesque meditation on identity within the spare language of fable, Atogun’s memorable debut novel testifies to the power of both oppression and art. Its protagonist, a musician known only as Taduno, runs afoul of the ruthless Nigerian government for stirring up the populace with his protest songs. Losing his famous voice as a result of their brutality, he goes into exile. Three months later, he receives a letter from his girlfriend, Lela, warning him that their homeland is changing dangerously. Deciding to reunite with her, Taduno returns to Lagos only to discover that no one recognizes him, all of the documents that prove his identity have mysteriously disappeared, and Lela has been abducted by the government in its attempt to gain leverage over him. Taduno realizes that the only way to regain his identity is to regain his voice. But his musical rebirth has an impossible cost: will he save Lela by singing for the government, or remain true to his people and his soul? Readers familiar with Nigerian political history or the country’s late musician-activist Fela Kuti will find echoes of both in the novel. But Atogan’s allegory, at once bleak and hopeful, needs no external glosses to speak clearly and powerfully. (Mar.)