I finished Cole’s most recently republished novel last week, and I wrote a bit about it in an earlier post on the fetishization of service, but I have a couple more notes…
- Cole is acutely aware of both artistic and literary traditions, and knows that he is in conversation with the Achebes of the world. I wonder who else he considers himself speaking with? Does he speak with Nnedi Okorafor (fantasy writer whose novel Who Fears Death? rocked?) Or is he a part of the bourgeoise European artistic tradition that he knows well as an arts scholar? Or is photography his jumping off point?
- The novel struck me as in its attempt to paint realistic portraits (I’m guessing) of Nigerian society. Cole spends very little time examining colonialism’s roots, and lots of time painting snapshots of dysfunction – children thieves who demand extortion money, upper class stories of break-ins and murders, the vast amount of anxiety and fear that the country lives in, finding itself perhaps in fundamentalist movements like Boko Haram.
- He has said in an essay in The Atlantic that he does not write to provide solutions or to speak clearly in his fiction:
Nonetheless, this essay is written as a further explanation of his tweets about what he calls the ‘white savior industrial complex,’and I think that EDISTDFTT is part of his effort to take on the responsibility of identifying solutions for his own country, especially as his narrator struggles between going back to the U.S. or returning to the country of his childhood, Nigeria.
- The novel is also an attempt to identify positions from which intellectuals can act, much as it tries to identify ways in which action makes sense. His narrator, early on, tries to ride a public bus, despite his family’s fears, and he does even though he wonders about the risks.