Kafka’s Black Ass
Igoni Barrett and Ane Farsethås
The Metamorphosis by Kafka is an obvious literary model when the Nigerian writer Igoni Barrett lets the main character of his last novel, Furo Wariboko, wake up on the day of his job interview to discover that his skin color has changed: He has turned white. His ass, however, remains black, and for this reason, the novel bears the title Blackass. When Furo arrives at the interview, he is pulled past the entire line of black applicants and given the job. His skin color is an immediate ticket to a career and success. But what does he say to his family and friends, and could it be that his identity isn’t located in his very skin?
There is sharp satire and humor in this nuanced portrait of Lagos, its citizens and the identity of skin color. Perceptions of blackness and whiteness are turned inside out. Other world views are also at stake, for instance when the character Igoni Barrett enters the stage, first as a man and then, after a similar transformation, as a woman.
Barrett has made a mark with two short story collections, but Blackass is his first novel. In 2014, he figured on the Hay festival’s list of the 39 best writers under 40 from Sub-Saharan Africa. Meet Barrett in conversation with cultural editor of Morgenbladet, Ane Farsethås.