Every Day Is for the Thief (Teju Cole)

Every Day Is for the Thief is a novel by Teju Cole.
Finished on: 1.4.2020

After 15 years, a young man returns to Lagos from the USA for the first time after having left Nigeria as a child. As he reconnects with his family, he also re-discovers Nigeria. But his relationship with the country and his own roots is fraught and he doesn’t quite know how he can fit.

Every Day Is for the Thief is a beautiful novel that examines a sometimes parted, sometimes doubled identity in an evocative way. Even if you – like me – don’t have a family history that involves two continents, I’m sure that Every Day Is for the Thief will resonate with you. It certainly did with me.

The book cover showing a man running on a street next to a car.

Every Day Is for the Thief is a slim novel, and yet it manages to cram a lot into those pages, making the entire thing feel longer than it is. That also means that it isn’t a quick, easy read. The density of the book prevents that – and it’s one of the most impressive things about it. The scenes are only loosely connected, glimpses of the protagonist’s stay in Lagos that tie together in theme, definitely, but don’t follow each other too closely most of the time. But each scene has a purpose and shows another aspect of what the protagonist experiences here.

Cole’s language is beautifully phrased and it really cuts to the quick. There is not one word here that feels out of place. There is a strong emotionality about it, despite its (apparent) lack of flourish. As is the case with the best of literature, I felt like I could experience the protagonist’s emotional world – despite being very white and having no real big migration in my family history. So I don’t know what it is to have to confront a “home country” in that way, but the novel gave me an idea of what it could be like. (It also made me remember my own experiences in Africa, though not in Nigeria, but in the DR Congo – very different countries for sure, but some things did remind me very strongly.)

I have to say, I was just really impressed with the novel and the questions about identity and belonging it raises. I’ll be sure to check out more of Cole’s stuff.

Summarizing: Strongly recommended.

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