I wrote most of my first novel, Waiting for an Angel, in Lagos, Nigeria, and if you have been to Lagos the fractured, discontinuous style of the narration would make sense to you immediately. Lagos in the 1990s, under the military dictatorship, was a large, sprawling suburb of hell – this is not an exaggeration. There were dead bodies lying for days by the roadside; there were traffic jams that went on for hours, trapping you in old, overcrowded molue buses where you were pinned between sweaty bodies as you hung on to the top railing for balance with one hand, and with the other hand you held on tightly to your wallet. Do I need to mention that when you finally got home from work, sometimes around 9 p.m., it was guaranteed that there would be no electricity? In my particular neighbourhood of Ketu we had had no power for months, at exactly the time I was writing my novel. Chinua Achebe, asked at a reading to say something about Lagos, said that his only advice to anyone who found himself in Lagos was to get out as soon as he could.
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