Taduno’s Song by Odafe Ato­gun (Canon­gate, £8.99)

Sunday Herald Life - - BOOKS REVIEWS - By Alas­tair Mab­bott

The ex­iled protest singer Taduno has been liv­ing out­side Nige­ria for only three months when he re­ceives a let­ter from his girl­friend Lela urg­ing him to re­turn. When he gets back to La­gos, Taduno finds that no-one recog­nises him. Bru­tal beat­ings from gov­ern­ment forces have robbed him of his dis­tinc­tive voice, so he can’t prove his iden­tity that way and all records of his ex­is­tence have been erased. With Lela lan­guish­ing in prison, Taduno is pre­sented with a dilemma: con­tinue to protest on be­half of the op­pressed peo­ple of Nige­ria or se­cure Lela’s re­lease from prison by be­com­ing a mouth­piece for the dic­ta­tor­ship. Ato­gun’s de­but novel is a dystopian satire in which a retelling of the Or­pheus myth is spiced up with fan­tas­ti­cal and Kafkaesque el­e­ments while also in­vok­ing the mem­ory of Nige­rian mu­si­cal icon Fela Kuti. As po­lit­i­cal as it is, the char­ac­ters are never re­duced to mere cyphers and Ato­gun keeps us in sus­pense to the very end.

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