Faction and Stream of Consciousness in Teju Cole’s Every Day Is for the Thief

Publication Date: 2007, 2014

Pagination: 162

Publisher: Random House

Reviewer: Olutayo Irantiola

Reading through the pages of “Every Day is for the Thief”, all I see is a semblance of realities that had happened to various people and families spread across the commercial city of Nigeria. From the regular street brawls to the challenges that people face at clearing goods at the ports amongst others, the text is full of various incidences that a Nigerian can relate to in his daily life.

Many of the sub-themes in the text that is largely centered on the corrupt tendencies in the country, Nigeria, are evident on the streets. The desire of the unknown narrator to re-experience all that he saw as a young lad before leaving Nigeria for the United States of America 15 years earlier made the book quite fascinating.

The known names in the text range from President Olusegun Obasanjo; Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun, and areas such as the Lagos Island- MUSON Centre, The National Museum, Ojodu, Opebi, China Town, Ikorodu Road, etc. Equally, the mention of specific events that can be verified such as the Chachangi and Bellview Airline plane crashes would refresh the memories of a Lagosian or a Nigeria. All of these attest to the novella as a work of faction. As defined, a faction is a form of literature or filmmaking that treats real people or events as if they were fictional or uses real people or events as essential elements in an otherwise fictional rendition.

With the current campaign of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) against bribery and extortion by the officers at the airports across the country, Nigerians have not given up on collecting bribes and this has led many to lose their jobs for peanuts. Similarly, the ports are full of corrupt tendencies which delay the clearance of goods and wares. These have led Nigerians to pay for demurrage on their consignments.

Another issue that one can relate to in the book is the avalanche of books at the CMS (CSS Bookshop); the dearth of books in Nigeria is becoming worrisome. Great books do not have a space in the bookstores; when the University of Lagos bookshop seems deprived of such books, what is the fate of new publications? Piracy has continued to thrive and it has almost suffocated the music industry, as well. They are left to patronize pirates at the expense of creative musicians. At this point in history, people like Kunle Tejuoso of Jazzhole and other notable few ones have come to the rescue.

Another notable thing that I can see in the text is the permeation of the Stream of Consciousness narrative technique as typified in the writings of Virginia Woolf. It is a style or technique of writing that tries to capture the natural flow of a character’s extended thought process, often by incorporating sensory impressions, incomplete ideas, unusual syntax, and rough grammar.

Stream of consciousness is used primarily in fiction and poetry, but the term has also been used to describe plays and films that attempt to visually represent a character’s thoughts. It allows readers to “listen in” to a character’s thoughts. The technique often involves the use of language in unconventional ways in an attempt to replicate the complicated pathways that thoughts take as they unfold and move through the mind. In short, it’s the use of language to mimic the “streaming” nature of “conscious” thought. 

In this style of writing, writers transition between ideas using loose connections that are often based on a character’s personal experiences and memories. It seeks to portray the actual experience of thinking, in all its chaos and distraction. Stream of consciousness is not just an attempt to relay a character’s thoughts, but to make the reader experience those thoughts in the same way that the character is thinking them.

As a Cultural advocate, I will like to say that the Yoruba phrases in the book are not well-written because Yoruba is a tonal language, and inscribing the tonal marks would convey the real meaning of the words; although the translation/transliteration of the phrases is in the text. When we are writing Yoruba, it needs to be written with precision.

We all have a part to play in making Nigeria, a nation of our dream- as a Nigerian based in Nigeria and those in the diaspora. Where do we stand in changing the narrative for the generation yet unborn?

Olutayo Irantiola is a Public Relations Specialist; Creative and Ghost writer; cultural, literary and historical aficionado based in Lagos, Nigeria. He is the At́kùn of Yorùbá Lák̀tun. He blogs on www.peodavies.com

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