A. Igoni Barrett, who you may have seen roaming around Surulere in search of akara with his Dutch wife, our very own Femke van Zeijl (see p.17 of the print edition ), has just published a novel which is happening all over the place. Titled Blackass, it tell the story of a 33-year-old graduate jobseeker, Furo Wariboko, who wakes up on the morning of yet another  job interview to discover he has turned into a white man. As he hits the city streets running, still reeling from his new-found condition, Furo finds the dead ends of his life open out before him. As a white man in Nigeria, the world is seemingly his oyster – except for one thing: despite his radical transformation, Furo’s ass remains robustly black.

A Igoni Barrett’s previous book is the short story collection, Love is Power, or Something Like That, which was published in 2013 to considerable acclaim. He is a winner of the 2005 BBC World Service short story competition, the recipient of a Chinua Achebe Center Fellowship, a Norman Mailer Center Fellowship, and a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center Residency.

Responses to his debut novel have been uniformly positive. Dami Ajayi, author of Clinical Blues, a poetry collection, said of it: ‘This debut novel, which begins on a bed in Egbeda and negotiates, on foot, to Ikeja and from there to Oniru, charts contemporary Lagos with infectious vivacity and exactness. People from all walks of life – food vendors, kept women, business owners – are portrayed in their fullness, warts and all.’

For ‘Pa Ikhide’, the (sometimes) scurrilous internet fiend with loud opinions on matters literary, ‘Blackass is one of the best literary offerings from Nigeria in 2015. It shines brightly next to Chigozie Obioma’s Man Booker long-listed debut, The Fishermen and E.C. Osondu’s full-length novel, This House is Not For Sale. Blackass is richly layered, it’s fresh and it’s engaging. I flipped the pages greedily as I neared the end wondering if Igoni would give this a happy ending. He does right by leaving us where he does at the end of this tale. It’s an ending that raises many questions. A. Igoni Barrett delivers everything you expect and more. If your reading list doesn’t already have Blackass on it you need to pencil it in. Blackass is one of 2015’s must-reads.’ Praise doesn’t come much higher.
Here is a sampler from the novel which will ring true for all Lagos residents: ‘Private provision of public services had turned everyone into judge and executioner and turned everyone’s backyards into industrial wastelands. Every man the king of his house, every house a sovereign nation, and every nation its own provider of security, electricity, water. Lagos was a city of millions of warring nations.’

UK edition published 9 July 2015 / ISBN: 978-0701188566

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