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Every Day is for the Thief

Characters Every Day is for the Thief

T immer klarer sieht Soll er bleiben oder fliehen In Teju Coles leuchtenden Sätzen in denen eine große gebrochene Liebe zum Ausdruck kommt entsteht das poetische Porträt eines bedrückten Landes und der größten Metropole in Afri. I wanted to like this book Really I did After all Teju Cole is an impressive writer and when I read an excerpt from this work a couple of years ago I was swept along on a tide of awe Teju could write What precise descriptions What elegant sentencesBut I have endured a mounting dismay as I’ve read this book The premise is that a young Nigerian emigrant returns to Nigeria after fifteen years away in order to recapture some of his past He toys with the idea of making his return permanent and in so doing takes on an outsider insider perspective as he re examines a culture with which he is no longer fully familiar He is disillusioned by the corruption he finds the religious fundamentalism the general willingness to settle for what is “good enough” but he is also fascinated by the almost animal instinct to fight and survive that he sees everywhere He is unimpressed by the country’s lack of “culture” – the National Museum is in poor condition the bookshops in Lagos are sorely lacking in literary fiction or a fair representation of local Nigerian writers; of the jazz shops he visits he is impressed by only one – an expensive Western style store that has a good selection of both music and literary fiction In simple terms he observes and criticizes Nigeria through a Westerner’s lens He asks why can’t Nigeria be like America or Europe This is an important project because it would seem that a Nigerian who has lived outside of Nigeria for some time would be in the best position to offer a careful critiue of the country’s culture and government Certainly he is an erudite narrator seamlessly blending literary and musical references and historical anecdotes But his tone is hectoring Even if a subtitle on the first page of the book indicates that Every Day is for the Thief is supposed to be fiction one loses this sense when one observes the photographs that appear at the end of almost every chapter and acknowledges that this is not a traditional novella but a platform for the narrator and perhaps even the author to outline his grievances with Nigeria and maybe indulge his penchant for photography Occasionally there is a glimpse of fictive potential such as when the narrator observes a woman on a bus she is reading one of his favorite authors and contemplates having a conversation with her But the woman disappears into the crowd and the potential for unselfconscious narrative is lost Worse very rarely are the sentences in this book appealing They are clean certainly They paint sharp visuals of what the narrator observes but they are not particularly beautiful because they do not combine insight with poetry a talent that Teju Cole demonstrates in his much longer and impressive work Open CityPerhaps to be fair I should point out that this was TC’s first work of fiction The narrator in Every Day is for the Thief is the narrator in Open City Like a friend has pointed out perhaps TC was merely prepping for Open City with this book But I could not help wanting What a wonderful book this would have been if the narrator’s political agenda had been presented in tandem with literary experimentation beautiful sentences and scenes where the narrator takes part instead of standing apart and aloof How much powerful if than simply critiue the narrator had spent time celebrating the parts of Nigerian life and society that he appreciated Of course it is no good to simply romanticize the idea or reality of home I say this as an immigrant but to dismiss home’s potential by viewing it through a strictly Western lens is to do home a major disservice Nigeria or any other African country really cannot be like America or Europe because of different factors including but not limited to history topography tribe and language Three stars because this is very capable writing and I’m a Teju Cole fan but no I did not like this book

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Ein junger Mann kehrt nach einigen Jahren in Amerika heim nach Lagos in Nigeria an den Ort seiner Kindheit den er vor vielen Jahren verlassen hat Er kommt bei Verwandten unter trifft alte Freunde lässt sich durch die Straßen treibe. Thank you Goodreads giveawaysThis is called 'Fiction' but don't believe it It seems to parallel the author's own life born in the US raised in Nigeria back to the US and then a return to Nigeria So it has a Memoir uality There is nothing of a novel about it which would reuire a plot; b character development; or c both a c This has d none of the aboveInstead this has a travelogue feel to it There is fine minimalist writing and really artful black and white photos taken by the author pictures much too clear for Sebald So this is a book of snapshots both pictorial and literary of the modern state of Nigeria Obliue but powerfulBy sheer coincidence because I won this book I read this just weeks after finishing Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie That timing proved fortunate because the history of Nigeria I learned from Adichie was very helpful This one is current events not history So I learned a lot and in a searing way than a Wikipedia search In lieu of traditional fiction devices Cole offers instead self congratulation which annoyed a bit There is danger in 'the market' he tells us but If you sit in your house if you refuse to go to market how would you know of the existence of others How would you know of your own existenceThis led to an odd critiue of American authors I suddenly feel a vague pity for all those writers who have to ply their trade from sleepy American suburbs writing divorce scenes symbolized by the very slow washing of dishes Had John Updike been African he would have won the Nobel Prize twenty years ago I feel sure that his material hobbled him Shillington Pennsylvania simply did not measure up to his extravagant giftsIn case you missed that Cole a first time author of what amounts to a Newsweek piece feels 'a vague pity' for John Updike because Updike never got to vacation in Lagos I wish Cole had said that to Sen Lloyd Bentsen In any event having returned to Nigeria unlike John Updike Cole is moved to Hamlet doubt I am not going to move back to Lagos No way I don't care if that too is a contribution to the atmosphere of surrenderI am going to move back to Lagos I mustIf only Shakespeare had journeyed to Africa He might have found something to write about other than the Macbeth's divorce He might even have won a Nobel 永遠の0 [Eien No Zero] nach einigen Jahren in Amerika heim Broken Flowers: And Other Stairways to Heaven nach Lagos in Nigeria an den Ort seiner Kindheit den er vor vielen Jahren verlassen hat Er kommt bei Verwandten unter trifft alte Freunde lässt sich durch die Straßen treibe. Thank you Goodreads giveawaysThis is called 'Fiction' but don't believe it It seems to parallel the author's own life born in the US raised in Nigeria back to the US and then a return to Nigeria So it has a Memoir uality There is Niedźwiedź w cieniu smoka nothing of a Wretched Chastity novel about it which would reuire a plot; b character development; or c both a c This has d Leading Snowflakes none of the aboveInstead this has a travelogue feel to it There is fine minimalist writing and really artful black and white photos taken by the author pictures much too clear for Sebald So this is a book of snapshots both pictorial and literary of the modern state of Nigeria Obliue but powerfulBy sheer coincidence because I won this book I read this just weeks after finishing Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie That timing proved fortunate because the history of Nigeria I learned from Adichie was very helpful This one is current events Fuehrer Directives and Other Top-Level Directives of the German Armed Forces 1942-1945: Hitler's Directives not history So I learned a lot and in a searing way than a Wikipedia search In lieu of traditional fiction devices Cole offers instead self congratulation which annoyed a bit There is danger in 'the market' he tells us but If you sit in your house if you refuse to go to market how would you know of the existence of others How would you know of your own existenceThis led to an odd critiue of American authors I suddenly feel a vague pity for all those writers who have to ply their trade from sleepy American suburbs writing divorce scenes symbolized by the very slow washing of dishes Had John Updike been African he would have won the Nobel Prize twenty years ago I feel sure that his material hobbled him Shillington Pennsylvania simply did Doxycycline: The Doctors Recommended Antibiotics Solution for Treating Infections caused by Bacterial such as Acne, Chlamydia, Lyme, Chest Infection, Malaria and STI’s Fast and Effectively not measure up to his extravagant giftsIn case you missed that Cole a first time author of what amounts to a Newsweek piece feels 'a vague pity' for John Updike because Updike The Invisible Bridge never got to vacation in Lagos I wish Cole had said that to Sen Lloyd Bentsen In any event having returned to Nigeria unlike John Updike Cole is moved to Hamlet doubt I am The Balts not going to move back to Lagos No way I don't care if that too is a contribution to the atmosphere of surrenderI am going to move back to Lagos I mustIf only Shakespeare had journeyed to Africa He might have found something to write about other than the Macbeth's divorce He might even have won a Nobel

Teju Cole à 2 Review

N Lagos ist anstrengend und korrupt Verheißung und Zumutung in einem voller Geschichten von spiritueller Größe und Verkommenheit Jede Nacht ist ein vergeblicher Versuch Ruhe zu finden Und jeder Tag ein Spiegel in dem er sich selbs. Like Friend of My Youth which I read earlier this year Every Day Is for the Thief is autofiction seems like nonfiction but it supposedly isn't but might be anyway about a writer who returns to the homeland he left behind years before In both books the narrator spends his time revisiting places from his younger days reminiscing about an often sad past meeting up with old friends and despairing at all that has changed mostly as a result of capitalism As with Friend of My Youth it took me a while to really get into the pace and structure of this book but once I did I enjoyed this slice of life view of Lagos The tales of corruption were eual parts fascinating and depressing but what really interested me were the day to day stories of visits to museums and shops of nightly power outages of trips on public transportation This is the Lagos you likely won't see as a tourist; under the able guidance of Cole you get the insider's view


10 thoughts on “Every Day is for the Thief

  1. says:

    An essayistic novel about Nigerian identity Every Day is for the Thief surveys the social and cultural life of the West African nation The book follows a young Nigerian writer as he returns to his homeland after coming of age abroad but neither plot nor character is the author’s main focus; Cole instead prioritizes sketching an empathetic portrait of Nigeria over the course of twenty seven fast moving chapters In each chapter or essay the narrator a clear stand in for the author describes his daily routine in Lagos considers how the city has changed since his childhood and recounts different facets of the country’s history The collective takes precedent over the personal and the narrator’s journey is anything but uniue While the book feels a bit short Cole is consistently insightful and engaging whether he’s discussing the rise of internet cafes in Nigeria critiuing political corruption or reflecting on what the nation’s future might look like


  2. says:

    Thank you Goodreads giveawaysThis is called 'Fiction' but don't believe it It seems to parallel the author's own life born in the US raised in Nigeria back to the US and then a return to Nigeria So it has a Memoir uality There is nothing of a novel about it which would reuire a plot; b character development; or c both a c This has d none of the aboveInstead this has a travelogue feel to it There is fine minimalist writing and really artful black and white photos taken by the author pictures much too clear for Sebald So this is a book of snapshots both pictorial and literary of the modern state of Nigeria Obliue but powerfulBy sheer coincidence because I won this book I read this just weeks after finishing Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie That timing proved fortunate because the history of Nigeria I learned from Adichie was very helpful This one is current events not history So I learned a lot and in a searing way than a Wikipedia search In lieu of traditional fiction devices Cole offers instead self congratulation which annoyed a bit There is danger in 'the market' he tells us but If you sit in your house if you refuse to go to market how would you know of the existence of others? How would you know of your own existence?This led to an odd critiue of American authors I suddenly feel a vague pity for all those writers who have to ply their trade from sleepy American suburbs writing divorce scenes symbolized by the very slow washing of dishes Had John Updike been African he would have won the Nobel Prize twenty years ago I feel sure that his material hobbled him Shillington Pennsylvania simply did not measure up to his extravagant giftsIn case you missed that Cole a first time author of what amounts to a Newsweek piece feels 'a vague pity' for John Updike because Updike never got to vacation in Lagos I wish Cole had said that to Sen Lloyd Bentsen In any event having returned to Nigeria unlike John Updike Cole is moved to Hamlet doubt I am not going to move back to Lagos No way I don't care if that too is a contribution to the atmosphere of surrenderI am going to move back to Lagos I mustIf only Shakespeare had journeyed to Africa He might have found something to write about other than the Macbeth's divorce He might even have won a Nobel


  3. says:

    Since the publicist’s blurb is misleading let me first define what Every Day Is for the Thief REALLY is It’s an older work by Teju Cole published in 2007 in Africa It’s fiction only in the loosest sense; in reality it’s a short book the size of a novella that reads partially like a travelogue or an analysis of the Nigerian psycheWhat the publicist gets right is that it’s very very good As Teju Cole displayed in Open City he definitely has writing chops His seamless insights well crafted prose and sense of storytelling are just spectacular My review is based on what this book really IS rather than what it is presented to beTeju Cole – or his narrator I suspect there’s a lot of blending – cast an unsparing look at life in Nigeria He writes this “Nigeria was declared the most religious country in the world Nigerians were found to be the world’s happiest people and in Transparency International’s 2005 assessment Nigeria was ranked sixth from the bottom out of the 158 countries assessed in the corruption perceptions index Religion corruption happiness”All three of these ingredients are on high display in this slight booka travelogue really providing an insider’s view about life in Nigeria When the narrator arrives back in Lagos after an extended stay in New York he gets to experience his country’s creative malevolent ambiguous energies again with new eyesCorruption is rampant and bribes are omnipresent The tragic past – from slavery to dictatorship – is buried The narrator muses “What I wonder are the social conseuences of life in a country that has no use for history?” A constant sense of foreboding about the fragility of life is constantly present Supernatural explanations are favored for the most ordinary events Yet through all this there’s a sense of hope the narrator glimpses a young woman on a bus reading Michael Ondaatje for exampleSince this book was written seven years ago it’s hard to tell what has changed; I wish an update had been added The author or narrator deplore the lack of Nigerian and African writers but in the past year or two there has been a renaissance of extraordinary debut writing A Igoni Barrett Aminatta Forna Okey Ndibe NoViolet Bulawayo Chinelo Okparanta and others that I’ve read and loved There may be other changes as well Still there’s no taking away from the fact that Teju Cole writes magnificently I look forward to his next book of TRUE fiction


  4. says:

    Like Friend of My Youth which I read earlier this year Every Day Is for the Thief is autofiction seems like nonfiction but it supposedly isn't but might be anyway about a writer who returns to the homeland he left behind years before In both books the narrator spends his time revisiting places from his younger days reminiscing about an often sad past meeting up with old friends and despairing at all that has changed mostly as a result of capitalism As with Friend of My Youth it took me a while to really get into the pace and structure of this book but once I did I enjoyed this slice of life view of Lagos The tales of corruption were eual parts fascinating and depressing but what really interested me were the day to day stories of visits to museums and shops of nightly power outages of trips on public transportation This is the Lagos you likely won't see as a tourist; under the able guidance of Cole you get the insider's view


  5. says:

    The mind roams widely in the dark than it does in the light Every Day is for the Thief reads like a tourist guide that tells you to better stay far away from Lagos There is corruption at every corner everybody wants your money thieves at the market are either kicked to death or burned and the museum isn't worth visiting anyway What makes all of this even strange is that the main character is Nigerian born who left to study and work in the USA When he returns to Nigeria many years later he is estranged from his country an outsider And as he walks through the city and paints its picture he reveals in a simplistic and insightful style how diaspora has shaped and changed himFind of my books on Instagram


  6. says:

    Surprisingly compelling uick episodic autobiographical reportage I wasn't able to make it through the author's first novel thought it was too mannered too falsely Sebaldian But this addled with facts and photos feels absolutely real albeit not a proper novel A labyrinth not a maze in which the author finds himself and his home city in its center Worth it for the chapter on the ubiuitous Nigerian e mail scam and the OMG immolation of a young thief Loved the assertion that if John Updike had been from and written about Lagos instead of Shillington PA he would have won the Nobel Prize twenty years before he died Definitely worth a look will probably try Open City again


  7. says:

    I believe this is the third book in the last two weeks that I have read that featured an unnamed narrator So our unnamed narrator returns to his home city Lagos after a fifteen year absence and he finds so many things that are different He meets a first cousin a young lady who was born just before he left the country and he hopes that the country stays together for her sake He is amazed at the corruption going on everywhere where people who have jobs are either never paid or paid so little what they can pad their pockets with make a difference between starving or living He see schemes and plots police officers arresting people and then letting them go after they have paid enough to the policeman's satisfaction The cost of graft is just figured into the cost of the item or the favor the person needs done In a country with only a 57%percent literacy rate he is amazed to see a young woman reading a challenging work by Michael Ondaatjie and finds the vision incongruous with the rickety bus they are on Our unnamed narrator is a keen observer and he shows the reader what it is like to return to a place and find so much changed and even things that have not The first things I noted when I started reading this short book was the smoothness of his writing He writes as matter of fact as one speaking I loved ht pictures included helped readers not familiar with this country to picture exactly what he is seeing Never read his first book which I know has won many awards will most likely seek that one outARC from publisher


  8. says:

    I wanted to like this book Really I did After all Teju Cole is an impressive writer and when I read an excerpt from this work a couple of years ago I was swept along on a tide of awe Teju could write What precise descriptions What elegant sentencesBut I have endured a mounting dismay as I’ve read this book The premise is that a young Nigerian emigrant returns to Nigeria after fifteen years away in order to recapture some of his past He toys with the idea of making his return permanent and in so doing takes on an outsider insider perspective as he re examines a culture with which he is no longer fully familiar He is disillusioned by the corruption he finds the religious fundamentalism the general willingness to settle for what is “good enough” but he is also fascinated by the almost animal instinct to fight and survive that he sees everywhere He is unimpressed by the country’s lack of “culture” – the National Museum is in poor condition the bookshops in Lagos are sorely lacking in literary fiction or a fair representation of local Nigerian writers; of the jazz shops he visits he is impressed by only one – an expensive Western style store that has a good selection of both music and literary fiction In simple terms he observes and criticizes Nigeria through a Westerner’s lens He asks why can’t Nigeria be like America or Europe? This is an important project because it would seem that a Nigerian who has lived outside of Nigeria for some time would be in the best position to offer a careful critiue of the country’s culture and government Certainly he is an erudite narrator seamlessly blending literary and musical references and historical anecdotes But his tone is hectoring Even if a subtitle on the first page of the book indicates that Every Day is for the Thief is supposed to be fiction one loses this sense when one observes the photographs that appear at the end of almost every chapter and acknowledges that this is not a traditional novella but a platform for the narrator and perhaps even the author to outline his grievances with Nigeria and maybe indulge his penchant for photography Occasionally there is a glimpse of fictive potential such as when the narrator observes a woman on a bus she is reading one of his favorite authors and contemplates having a conversation with her But the woman disappears into the crowd and the potential for unselfconscious narrative is lost Worse very rarely are the sentences in this book appealing They are clean certainly They paint sharp visuals of what the narrator observes but they are not particularly beautiful because they do not combine insight with poetry a talent that Teju Cole demonstrates in his much longer and impressive work Open CityPerhaps to be fair I should point out that this was TC’s first work of fiction The narrator in Every Day is for the Thief is the narrator in Open City Like a friend has pointed out perhaps TC was merely prepping for Open City with this book But I could not help wanting What a wonderful book this would have been if the narrator’s political agenda had been presented in tandem with literary experimentation beautiful sentences and scenes where the narrator takes part instead of standing apart and aloof How much powerful if than simply critiue the narrator had spent time celebrating the parts of Nigerian life and society that he appreciated Of course it is no good to simply romanticize the idea or reality of home I say this as an immigrant but to dismiss home’s potential by viewing it through a strictly Western lens is to do home a major disservice Nigeria or any other African country really cannot be like America or Europe because of different factors including but not limited to history topography tribe and language Three stars because this is very capable writing and I’m a Teju Cole fan but no I did not like this book


  9. says:

    I previously read Open City and really liked it and this book seems new but was actually published in Nigeria back in 2007 and pre dates Open City I think you can tell There are moments of really great writing but the story of returning home to Nigeria is told in fragments and snippets illustrated by photos that were taken at a later date by the author Some of it used to be on the author's blog from a trip he took back to Africa a few years ago The story is likely semi autobiographical although I haven't found anywhere that has the author claiming it as his own and his blog only lives in internet archivedom I'm fascinated by this idea of returning home since I will shortly be doing the same just not to Nigeria How much can you or the place you left change before neither is anywhere near the same? The narrator has the strange experience of belonging to Lagos as a child but being immediately identified as an outsider as a returned adult This had definite similarities to Americanah by Adichie Funny that both books are about Nigerians who have lived in the UK and USA returning home to a Nigeria that they no longer recognize and that they no longer fit inside Some little snippets to give a taste of the writing which to me is the best partThe market as the essence of the city is always alive with possibility and danger Strangers encounter each other in the world's infinite variety; vigilance is needed Everyone is there not merely to buy or sell but because it is a duty If you sit in your house if you refuse to go to market how would you know of the existence of others? How would you know of your own existence?The air in the strange familiar environment of this city is dense with story and it draws me into thinking of life as stories All I have to do is prod gently and people open upThe problem used to only be the leadership But now when you step out into the city your oppressor is likely to be your fellow citizen his ethics eroded by years of suffering and life at the cusp of desperationI am not going to move back to Lagos No way I don't care if there are a million untold stories I don't care if that too is a contribution to the atmosphere of surrender I am going back to Lagos I must No sense emerges of the combat between art and messy reality Discussed on Episode 5 of the Reading Envy podcast


  10. says:

    I read this in two days I was so addicted to it It reads like a travelogue and isn't big on character development but what an honest full bodied portrayal of Lagos Nigeria It had me laughing hard sucking my teeth with annoyance and blushing with pride and one scene had me crying it touched on a painful memory of something I have witnessed in Nigeria as well I want Teju to write stories set in Lagos I'd LOVE to see him write that story set in a Lagos 50 years from now ; Note This novella was originally published in Nigeria by Cassava Republichttpwwwcassavarepublicbiz


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