I have to say that I’m super glad and impressed to see that more books authored by African writers are finding their way into mainstream book stores. We are also seeing a growing number of refreshing and gripping literary fiction titles being released. Take Easy Motion Tourist by Leye Adenle for instance; Easy Motion Tourist is a crime story, a contemporary dark thriller set in Lagos featuring an naive tourist, Guy Collins. He meets up with and Amaka and together they set out on a quest to expose the trade in body parts. This engaging thriller conveys a vivid account of a dark and violent Lagos making you forget that this story is just a fiction!
Leye Adenle was in South Africa for his book tour a few weeks ago, and I needed to understand some few things:
AAB: I love Nigeria, well Lagos. Never been there but of course reading literary fiction set in Lagos, I get to imagine it, the city & people. For instance, Guy Collins and I are tourists in Lagos, we are both intrigued and fascinated by the city but we went there as two naïve tourists! Would you think the context(dark/violence/corruption/intensity) of Easy Motion Tourist displays a fair view of contemporary Lagos?
LA: I think Lagos, like most mega cities of the world, is a complex character. In Lagos you will find beauty, the most moving acts of human compassion, the resilience, creativity, inventiveness of people. You will find faith like you have never observed it before. People praising and worshiping an almighty giver and protector as if he were standing at the pulpit in their church. You will find kindness and forgiveness, you will find goodness and yes, godliness, but you will also find darkness where you expect to find it and where you don’t. I believe this describes most cities in the world and the people who live in them.
AAB: And how was it received? I mean readers in Lagos, Nigeria?
LA: Lagosians, as they are called, have largely loved the book. Till date, touch wood, not one Lagosian has said to me, ‘Leye, how dare you.’ Rather, the recurring soundbite has been, ‘Wow, you really know Lagos.’ Again, touch wood. The honourable minister for tourism might yet read it and say, ‘you are banned! You and your book. Banned!’
AAB: It came across well to me anyway, in a way you are exposing these injustices happening in Lagos. Again, it blew me away when I felt like you are aiming to get across this gross violence against women – violence against sex workers. Where does this come from? Perhaps an activist for the welfare of women? I mean how or why did you decide to tackle this issue?
LA: The story came to me out of a conversation with my mum and her boys. My two brothers. We were discussing everything under the sun, as usual, when the debate segued to naked mutilated bodies often found on express ways in Nigeria. Usually female. Usually young. The consensus has always been that the bodies are victims of murder for rituals, and that they were prostitutes.
We were debating and discussing cause and protection, especially the argument for decriminalization of sex work (which I strongly advocate) when the idea for the story came to me.
AAB: I will assume prostitution is not legal that side but the constant brutality surrounding them is quite hectic. Even here in SA sex workers are not well protected.
And then there is the ‘heroin’ Amaka. I need to understand how you managed to voice her. How difficult or easy was it to write for a female character?
LA: Writing Amaka is simple. She’s exactly like many women I know. She’s an amalgamation of friends, relatives, colleagues, lovers, potential lovers who shunned me. She is, to put it quite simply, woman. Phenomenally.
AAB: I refused to think this is a romance story. When you started writing Easy Motion Tourist, were there thoughts/ideas of the book leading to a romance relationship between Guy and Amaka?
LA: When I started writing, I did not foresee anything beyond the theme. On a line by line, chapter by chapter basis, for instance, I did not know what any of the characters would do. They sometimes surprised me with their actions. On Amaka’s part, she shocked me. At times while writing I was like, ‘Amaka!’ Other times I simply shook my head at her. She’s her own person, unapologetically and with complete agency. I cannot take credit or blame for any of her actions.
AAB: Lately we speak and hear of decolonising African Literature. The contemporary African Literature. We hear and speak about books authored in African languages. Your opinion? Would you write in Yoruba? And why you think it matters? Which it does.
LA: My grandfather wrote in Yoruba. I write in English. No one can lay claim to any language as theirs. Language belongs to humanity. I cannot be accused of cultural appropriation for use of English, or any other language for that matter. The important issue for me is communication. I want to communicate. I want to be read. I want to be heard. I communicate well in English, as do a lot of people in the world that I write for. Would I write in Yoruba? Of course. If I’m telling a story that can only be told in Yoruba, or that is only meant for Yoruba speaking people. Until I’m about to write such a story, I’ll be content with being translated into Yoruba.
I would rather the colonised people of Africa shed the imposed religions of their colonisers
Easy Motion Tourist – Leye Adenele is an incredible, brilliantly written story that surely should be adapted into a (well-funded) film.