Lagos: A City of Stories. A Review of Lagos Noir.

This book is a collection of stories that basically tell different perspectives and realities of the life lived in Lagos. Lagos state is the financial capital of Nigeria and it seems like you haven’t made it big until you hit the jackpot in Lagos. Lagos is a blend of people from all works of life who have come to work, hustle and make a name for themselves while also searching for fun and meaning.

The contributors to this noir tell very interesting stories that showcase the good, the bad and the ugly side of Lagos all of which makes up a balanced blend of narratives. What runs through in all the stories is the need to portray Lagos as it is. A land of opportunities, diversities, struggle, resilience and hard work. In the midst of all of these are the characters that constitute the ever moving plot of the Lagos story. Men who have been scarred and taught hard and bitter levels in their quest to be true Lagosians.

The first story written by Jude Dibia shows the fight between right and wrong. There is an honest police officer who seeks justice against a band of robbers who murder a white woman. His righteous zeal is quenched when he discovers that within his own fold of law keepers are those who delight in breaking the law.

The next story brilliantly written by Chika Unigwe is one that wrenches the heart. The character Emeka is like any other young man searching for his own wealth, his own place and his own space. However, the cruelty of the society and the men in uniform stops him from continuing that search. It sheds light more on the state of extra judicial killings that have plagued the Nigerian society for a long time.

Every story is one that an average Lagosian can relate with especially the hardships that people face just so they can stay afloat. Nnedi Okorafor’s Showlogo portrays a character, Showlogo who seems to be undefeated in life. He always emerges stronger even when he falls from a flying aircraft, he picks himself up and moves on. Impossible to believe you may say but it is symbolic of the tenacity of Lagosians. It shows resilience and a strong sense to fight the obstacle despite the odds.

One thing that Lagos is quite known for is congestion and in Igoni Barrett’s story, he speaks of the untidiness and filth that decorates Lagos’ environment which can be largely attributed to poor infrastructure and congestion. The character in this story struggles to find a good place to live but it seems more like an ordeal as cleaner places cost more than his pocket could handle. In fact, the Lagos that is portrayed here is one in which a search for privacy is futile. With the growing ‘Face me, I face you’ structures that constantly puts the neighbours in your face shows that Lagos is a place that won’t be so difficult to live in if you are strong hearted while it will chew those who are weak and unable to withstand pressure.

Adebayo Rayo’s Story, ‘What Are You Going to Do?’ is quite dark. This story is about the mental instability of the character. Though she has a therapist, she is unable to live normally. She actually keeps a snake as a pet. She practically almost kills her boss and lets a snake lose in a cab. While you might be wondering what this writer might be trying to achieve or the message she tries to pass across, it just might speak to the growing mental illness that is cutting through not just Lagos state but the society at large. The need for people to seek mental help in times of difficulty and also yield themselves to help being rendered is vital to stemming this malaise.

The book for me had its high points and good stories but some stories didn’t spark so much interest in me but generally it was a good book. It talks about a myriad of issues that will leave you pondering, wondering and sometimes dejected because as short stories, you desire more and the story ends abruptly. The contributors did well in telling the hidden and visible stories of Lagos. Lagos is indeed a city of stories.

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