A Nigerian Oddyseus
Chigozie Obioma and Ellen Sofie Lauritzen
“You are afraid, brother,” Jamike said, shaking his head. “You really love this woman.”
The title of Chigozie Obioma’s new novel, which has been longlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize, is An Orchestra of Minorities. Central to the story is the Nigerian chicken farmer Chinonso. He loves Ndali, a woman above his class. And this love leads both him and his beloved into damnation.
The Igbos’ mythical universe, with a belief in reincarnation and the intervention of spirits in the shape of guarding chis, is another central element in the novel. The story takes the form of a council of spirits: Together, they are discussing the fate of Chinonso. Where was he wrong, and where did evil befall him accidentally? Greek tragedy and the hero’s hubris resonate through the story, as does the Odyssey: Like Odysseus, Chinonso also constantly face new trials.
Obioma’s debut novel, The Fishermen, was published in 2015 to raving reviews, and shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize the same year. The coming of age-story about four brothers and their fateful attraction to the dangerous, contaminated river was met with great enthusiasm by critics. Obioma cites writers like Arundhati Roy and Chinua Achebe among his literary inspirations.
Meet Obioma in conversation with writer and journalist Ellen Sofie Lauritzen.