Literary & General
Ohio University Press/Swallow Press
Eghosa Imasuen is a Nigerian writer, author of To Saint Patrick and Fine Boys. He lives in Lagos, Nigeria, where he runs a new publishing outfit called Narrative Landscape Press.
Bulgarian, Danish, Finnish, French, Italian, Norwegian, Romanian, Swedish
Ewaen is a Nigerian teenager, bored at home and eager to flee from his parents’ unhappy marriage and incessant quarreling. When Ewaen is admitted to the University of Benin, he makes new friends who, like him, are excited about their newfound independence. Their routine consists of hanging out in a parking lot trading jibes, chasing girls and sex, and learning to manage the staff strikes and crumbling infrastructure. But Nigerian campuses in the 1990s can be dangerous places, too. Violent confraternities stake territories and stalk for new recruits. An incident of petty crime snowballs into tragedy…
This entrapping story is told from Ewaen’s voice. Ewaen can easily pass for any Nigerian who was an undergraduate in any Nigerian University in the late 80’s and early 90’s. At the very beginning of the story, we meet this smart, upper middle class adolescent who is eager to gain admission into the University to study Medicine. It’s a very familiar experience, the ‘waiting for admission’ period. Ewaen spends his time with friends, playing computer games, trying out new vices and fantasising about school.
Quite early in the book also, we meet Wilhem, Ewaen’s ‘half caste’ friend who has a penchant for over doing anything he falls in love with, as seen in his adoption of the pidgin English as his default language of communication, despite being a late comer to it. His stubborn dedication to any cause would prove to be a double-edged sword and a huge factor in moderating this story.
Fine Boys leads us through the experiences of these two young men and others of their age whom they meet in school. Friendships are formed. Experiences are shared. They quarrel and make up. They fall in love. Some learn to smoke, others to drink. Something, however, is ever-present; the usual pressure to join a campus cult, ‘Confra’ as they are called in the book. Some join. But there isn’t just one cult and the field is never large enough for all, hence the conflict which plays out and threatens to consume all the friends a few years down the line.
These experiences happen against the backdrop of a country at war with itself. Eghosa brilliantly places the story, the tension soaked relationship between friends who are members of rival campus cults, side by side with the socio-political story of the country and the happenings at the time. In many ways, these sad happenings – the endless strike actions by the various University staff unions, the occupation of campuses by uniformed men, the annulment of June 12 election, the arrest of MKO and the rabid hunt for activists and pro-democracy campaigners – combined to leave a huge impact on the lives of these young adults. The vivid picture of a country which had no plans for her youth is not lost on any reader and, naturally, these young men, at that time, sought and found ways to shape their destiny. However, most of those ways were detrimental to them and society.
Eghosa’s use of language is exquisite. Simple, witty, fast paced and lighthearted. He makes the first person narrative feel so full, so complete that the perspective of none of the other characters is lost in the narration. How Eghosa manages to sustain dialogue between multiple characters in many scenes in this book and yet does justice to all, is an art. His use of Pidgin English is spectacular, goes beyond the flamboyant street lingo of his erstwhile home; this man’s pidgin is intellectual. Nothing is lost in translation. The ease and coherence with which he communicates in pidgin, expressing himself in metaphors and onomatopoeia interlaced with delicious humour and a philosophy of resilience, is not just refreshing and sophisticated, but downright sexy.
In his trademark witty, colloquial style, critically acclaimed author Eghosa Imasuen presents everyday Nigerian life against the backdrop of the pro-democracy riots of the 1980s and 1990s, the lost hopes of June 12 (Nigeria’s Democracy Day), and the terror of the Abacha years. Fine Boys is a chronicle of time, not just in Nigeria, but also for its budding post-Biafran generation.
Fine Boys is Eghosa Imasuen’s second novel.
"Fine Boys is the first African novel I know that takes us into the world of the children of IMF: those post–Berlin wall Africans, like myself, who came of age in the days of the Conditionalities, those imposed tools and policies that made our countries feral; the days that turned good people into beasts, the days that witnessed the great implosion and scattering of the middle classes of a whole continent. Fine Boys takes us deep into the lives of the notorious gangs that took over universities all over Nigeria in the 1990s and early this century. We saw our universities collapse, and we struggled to educate ourselves through very harsh times. It is a beautifully written novel, heartfelt, deeply knowledgeable, funny, a love story, a tragedy; an important book, a book of our times; a book f...