Every Day is for the Thief – Teju Cole

Every Day is for the Thief is an exciting book written by Nigerian writer Teju Cole in 2007, which leaves people on the streets of Lagos. This short book is read more like a memoir or travel book than a novel, and one cannot help thinking that the anonymous narrator is one with the author.

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Every Day is for the Thief tells the story of an unnamed Nigerian character who immigrated to the United States to become a doctor and returned to his country years later. More precisely, there is no proper story; we are listening to Nigeria through the eyes of our narrator. He tries to explain the daily events he encounters in Lagos as objectively as he can in concise episodes, but he cannot be objective towards this country that he loves and dislikes at the same time. Black and white photographs taken by Teju Cole in Nigeria are interspersed between the chapters. I should point out that these add different emotions to what the anonymous narrator is telling.

Every Day is for the Thief - Teju Cole

Frankly, the thought of visiting Nigeria after reading Every Day is for the Thief gave me goosebumps. It was tough to read about the corruption in the country. The violence, the economic and moral collapse and the fear and hopelessness that all this has caused in Nigeria are unbearable. However, the author rarely mentions some people and moments in the book, and I couldn’t help but admire these hopeful people.

As someone who left her country and immigrated to a country she thought was better, I couldn’t read the book without thinking about my own experiences. These are the thoughts that push a person into a deep silence; one’s throat is choked with both resentment and sadness. It is for these very reasons that I will never forget Every Day is for the Thief, and I will be encouraged by Teju Cole’s ability to recount his experiences in such a way. I highly recommend Every Day is for the Thief.

Every Day is for the Thief - Teju Cole

Every Day is for the Thief

Every Day is for the Thief: A young Nigerian writer living in New York City returns to Lagos in search of a subject-and himself.

Every Day is for the Thief: Visiting Lagos after many years away, Teju Cole’s unnamed narrator rediscovers his hometown as both a foreigner and a local. A young writer uncertain of what he wants to say, the man moves through tableaus of life in one of the most dynamic cities in the world: he hears the muezzin’s call to prayer in the early morning light, and listens to John Coltrane during the late afternoon heat.

He witnesses teenagers diligently perpetrating e-mail frauds from internet cafes, longs after a woman reading Michael Ondaatje on a public bus, and visits the impoverished National Museum. Along the way, he reconnects with old school friends and his family, who force him to ask himself profound questions of personal and national history. Over long, wandering days, the narrator compares present-day Lagos to the Lagos of his memory, and in doing so reveals changes that have taken place in himself. Every Day is for the Thief is his first book.

Teju Cole

TEJU COLE is a novelist, photographer, critic, curator, and the author of five books. He was the photography critic of the New York Times Magazine from 2015 until 2019. He is currently the Gore Vidal Professor of the Practice of Creative Writing at Harvard.

His novella, Every Day is for the Thief, was named a book of the year by the New York Times, the Globe and Mail, NPR, and the Telegraph, and shortlisted for the PEN/Open Book Award. His novel, Open City, also featured on numerous book of the year lists, and won the PEN/Hemingway Award, the New York City Book Award for Fiction, the Rosenthal Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Internationaler Literaturpreis, and was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the New York Public Library Young Lions Award, and the Ondaatje Prize of the Royal Society of Literature.

His essay collection, Known and Strange Things, was shortlisted for both the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay and the inaugural PEN/Jean Stein Award for “a book that has broken new ground by reshaping the boundaries of its form and signaling strong potential for lasting influence.” Known and Strange Things was named a book of the year by the Guardian, the Financial Times, Time Magazine, and many others.

Blind Spot (June 2017), a genre-crossing work of photography and texts, was shortlisted for the Aperture/Paris Photo Photobook Award and named one of the best books of the year by Time Magazine. He was commissioned by the 2017 Performa Biennial to present a multimedia solo performance piece, Black Paper, which the New York Times acclaimed as “quietly grave” and “thoroughly devastating.” His most recent books are Human Archipelago, a collaboration with the photographer Fazal Sheikh, and Fernweh, a book of photographs. His forthcoming books are the photobook Golden Apple of the Sun, and the essay collection Black Paper.

Teju Cole has contributed to the New York Times, the New Yorker, Granta, Brick, and many other magazines. His photography column at the New York Times Magazine, “On Photography,” was a finalist for a 2016 National Magazine Award.

There have been solo exhibitions of his photography in Italy, Iceland, India, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and the US. He gave the 2014 Kenan Distinguished Lecture in Ethics at Duke University, the 2015 Susan D. Gubar Lecture at Indiana University, and the 2016 Spui25 Lecture at the University of Amsterdam. He was awarded the 2015 Windham Campbell Prize for Fiction, a 2015 US Artists award, and a 2018 Guggenheim Fellowship. He was a Poynter Journalism Fellow at Yale University in 2018. He serves as a board member for several periodicals and arts organizations, and has participated in many literary and photography juries.

He delivered the Randy L. and Melvin R. Berlin Family Lectures at the University of Chicago in April 2019, gave the Class Day speech at the Commencement Ceremony of the Harvard Graduate School of Design in May 2019, and curated an exhibition titled Go Down Moses at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in July–September 2019.

Teju Cole was born in the US in 1975 to Nigerian parents and was raised in Lagos. He currently lives in Cambridge, MA. Every Day is for the Thief is his first book.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

Read Around the World

Reading Challenge 2021

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