another age


The first time I saw Odia Ofeimun was at a party in Lagos. We came late, Toni Kan and I. It was a Friday, we had left the office and stopped at several barrooms on the way, and by nine o’clock, when we arrived at the party, we were tipsy. But we were in good company: almost everyone was high. There was an air of euphoria in the room; it was the same all over the country. This was November 1999. The country had just emerged from fifteen years of military dictatorship. Everyone was savouring that feeling of having survived a shipwreck, or a plane crash. The future looked bright, especially for the people gathered in this room: over a hundred of them, poets and writers and playwrights. In everyday life they were journalists and teachers and out-of-work graduates, a handful who had narrowly survived General Abacha’s elite-exterminating agenda which saw a lot of pro-democracy intellectuals killed or exiled or compromised. Those who could not afford to go into exile during the reign of terror, and who refused to become turncoats, had lived in a sort of limbo, occasionally bringing out a book of poems or stories or essays whose oblique metaphors and idioms made sense only to other writers. Tonight these writers were being hosted by Maik, a novelist and journalist, and the booze was flowing. They were exchanging stories about fellow writers exiled in foreign capitals. Next to me two young men were arguing about a poet who had been found strangled in his car the year before.

more from Granta here.