The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma

The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma is a harrowing novel set in the 1990s.  A middle-class professional family in the town of Akure unravels, with brother killing brother.  The novel works as a metaphor for Nigeria, as a classic-style tragedy, and as a psychological family drama.  The latter reading was for me the more satisfying: places like Akure in the early 1990s, and families like that of the young narrator (a younger brother), were unlikely to have quality psychiatrists able to diagnose teenage psychotic episodes.  And the break suffered by Ikenna seems like a classic teenager whose normal sudden switch to self-centeredness, rebellion, lassitude and paranoia here becomes exaggerated as the family authority figure, the father, must take a job in a town quite far away so he only comes back occasionally (and too late).  Kids make up their worlds, is the theme, and it can sometimes be wonderful, and sometimes downright scary.  Obioma traces this wonderfully, with the four brothers paired into two sets, each orbiting a slightly different axis.

Good reviews from The New York Times and The Guardian.

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
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