You probably felt no buzz about it, because it was neither about sliding into a DM or 25,456 jets landing for the wedding of the Maradona’s daughter. But it was still a big deal – yes, the 16th Nigeria International Book Fair held last week at the University of Lagos.
Maybe it was not a “big” deal as such. Attendance was not so great, besides about a dozen primary and secondary schools whose excited students gave the atmosphere the air of a rowdy assembly ground. There was a day for authors, but not an awful lot of (popular) faces were on sight. Olusegun Adeniyi’s expertly written Against the Run of Play (that’s all the review you need on that) was on every non-academic book stand that was worth its salt.
But I didn’t go to the fair for Politics. Book fairs are always good opportunities to “feed the eyes”, wow at how you’ve wanted to have some particular book only if you had enough money, and perhaps meet a fellow sapiosexual. Thankfully, I was fortunate to have some change. So I ventured. Here’s the list of the most interesting finds.
Under the Udala Trees – Chinelo Okparanta
A chance stumble, a couple of weeks ago, on Taye Selasi’s piece in the Guardian about Blackness in writing, introduced me to the Port-Harcourt born American Nigerian author. Checking her up on Google, the title Under the Udala Trees showed up as her most recent novel. The name stuck, and when I walked past one of the stands and saw it, there was the I’ve-met-you-before moment. Any story with doing something “under an udala tree” in it would have something to do with an opposite sex. Having gone through Day 1 without getting to say any “Hi”, getting this novel, on Day 3, would be as close as I would come to contact with sapiosexuality. Should be worth it, I hope.
Alapata Apata – Wole Soyinka
How shameful is to admit that you have never read a Soyinka? Well, that’s my admission. For the sheer volume of his work, there should be some sort of a Guide to Reading Wole Soyinka.
For a beginner, it can be overwhelming, but I had guide from one of the booksellers; Alapata Apata was the recommended text. It’s nice that it is a play, a guarantee that I’ll have the help of my imagination in following it as though it were a movie. Should this work well, The Trials of Brother Jero will be next. (Should I have begun with that instead?)
Sunset at Dawn – Chukwuemeka Ike
Did I say authors didn’t show up? Scrap that. The value of the one man who was present was worth a 1000 authors combined. Actually, the International Book Fair has run for over a decade, thanks to the singular effort of His Royal Highness, Prof Chukwuemeka Ike. In case you don’t remember him:
“One clean jump, and the leopard sailed effortlessly over the wall, and landed noiselessly…” If you didn’t read that book, you’re probably too advanced in age to be as single as I am.
With the veteran author in the building, It was a no-brainer really that he had to sign his book for me. Having read The Bottled Leopard and The Potter’s Wheel (yet to finish it), Sunset at Dawn was the chosen one. For exclusive video of the signing ceremony, apply in person.
Africa Must be Modern – Olufemi Taiwo
It is commendable that Segun Adeniyi’s book tells the story of what happened in Africa’s biggest country to lead to a transfer of Government to an opposition. Moving forward, it will be necessary to learn from that to make better decisions in the future. It will not be enough to transliterate from mistakes to draft lessons.
A true manifestation of change, requires a challenging Manifesto.
Africa Must Be Modern claims to be “A MANIFESTO” for contemporary Africa. Vision 2031 in full swing!
The ones that got away
So, the four books above are now in my library (I gloat). If the shenanigans of the news about politicians and their flying jets will let me have some focus, I will commence the grand feast on them. But they were not THE BEST books money could buy at the fair. Bookshopping is probably the most indecisive endeavour you can take up, especially if you don’t have a budget.
To cut to the chase, there were other fantastic books which are now marked for when the dollar falls.
foreign gods, inc – Okey Ndibe
Okey Ndibe is one of those guys who flood Sahara Reporters with “no spin” opinion pieces; at least that was how I discovered him. What I did not know was that the man is some badass of an author. His memoir Never Look an American in the Eye is a must read (I must read that), they say.
But I’d heard about foreign gods, inc sometime ago and seeing it on the shelf of books yet to be released, increased my ‘rep’ for the book. Everyone who handled the beautiful cover sighed that it wasn’t available for sale. It comes out in July.
There are No Heroes – Femi Sowoolu
Before the deep voice of ‘Big Brother’ ever became a thing to be raved about in the consciousness of Nigeria pop culture, my voice-idol has been that voice that invites you to the thrill that was The Gulder Ultimate Search. Femi Sowoolu’s narration of the dynamics of the tasks and tears that accompany the Jungle life, across more than 10 seasons of the Reality show, in rhythm with the theme songs, remains a masterclass in TV production. I opened a few pages of his book, There are No Heroes, in which he narrates his journey from a desire to tell stories to becoming a raconteur-in-chief. He is one of my heroes, so it’s natural I save and get that book soon.
How Europe Underdeveloped Africa – Walter Rodney
There is no question about the veracity of the title of the book; it is a fact. For one, we can begin with crediting them with the decimation of our indigenous languages. The Year 2017 marks the 120th anniversary of the fall of the Benin Kingdom, a society so organized at the time that, were it not for the invasion of 1897, we probably would have invented Facebook before Mark Zuckerberg (okay, I’ve stretched it there). But besides these, what Walter Rodney’s book does is give a logical explanation of the state of things before colonization and afterwards; there is a page there on how they never built any infrastructure unless it was in there interests. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa is not a new book, so why did I not get it?
Honorable mentions go to Tunji Olaopa’s The Labour of Our Heroes and Chibundu Onuzo’s This is Lagos. They are in the cart, the lower section. Now, random curious question: why is Onyeka Nwelue’s Hip Hop is only for Children selling for five thousand naira?!