cover image Every Day is for the Thief

Every Day is for the Thief

Teju Cole. Random House, $23 (162p) ISBN 978-0-8129-9578-7

Novelist Cole's Open City brought him international attention, but this novel, first published in Nigeria and now currently being republished in the U.S. and the U.K., was actually his first. Set in contemporary Lagos, Nigeria, the novel follows a nameless narrator's visit to his homeland after a lengthy stay in the United States. Estranged from his mother and unemotional about his father's death, the protagonist seeks his humanity and redemption in art. Cole's crisp language captures how Lagos%E2%80%94the home of numerous Internet scams and frequent power cuts%E2%80%94possesses a violence that both disgusts his protagonist and fascinates him. With journalism-like objectivity, Cole by way of his narrator details a Nigeria that is violent and corrupt, but also multi-cultural and alive. This pared-down writing style comes at the cost of character development. (For example, the narrator's training as a psychiatrist is never really explored.) As a result, the novel reads more like a beautiful work of creative nonfiction. The structure is loose, a collection of observances of daily life in Lagos in which Cole presents the complexities of culture and poverty. In addition, Cole sprinkles dramatic black-and-white photos throughout the book, but it's his willingness to explore so many uncomfortable paradoxes that sears this narrative into our brains. Agent: Andrew Wylie, The Wylie Agency. (Apr.)