A. Igoni Barrett_author photo_small

Igoni Barrett took us by surprise when he came out with his Nigerian rewrite of Kafka’s Metamorphosis. The celebrated novel by the Czech writer has captivated readers for decades and tells the story of a man who wakes up one morning and finds that he has been mysteriously transformed into an insect.

In a novel titled Blackass, Igoni gives Kafka’s classic a whole new life in an urban tale about a Lagosian who wakes up one morning and finds that he is a white man. Barrett’s novel is pure magic and comes highly recommended.

These kinds of quirky, out-of-the-box stories have become Barrett’s trademark. He is successful. He is accomplished in the craft. He has publishers in Nigeria and in the US who ensure that his work is read at home and abroad.

But behind every moment in the spotlight,  there is often the less glamorous years of toil and uncertainty. In a recent essay posted on The Guardian, Barrett details the long and arduous journey that led him to becoming a successful writer.

He talks about studying agriculture at the University of Ibadan, returning home to the village and writing instead of farming, about moving to Lagos and being lost in the literary energy of the city, about writing the right story at the right time and having doors of opportunity open up to him.

It is an inspiring story. A must-read for any aspiring writer out there.

Here is a little taste:

Back in 2001, my mother was the first person to ask me why did I write. My response was mumbled gibberish because I had no answer ready, though I could also hear in her tone that nothing I said would placate her. These days, whenever I’m asked that question, I do my utmost to give a different answer every time. I write because I can, because you read, because we die, because I must. I was 11 when I first experienced the must-write feeling, though it lasted only as long as it took me to realize my poems were childish. About two years later, in 1993, I got the itch again, and spent three straight days writing a play whose main characters, blond hair and all, were Nigerian-accented aliens from a Georgette Heyer universe. After that second failure, I decided to become an aeronautical engineer. Anything was easier than writing. And for anyone who has read enough to recognize how bad their writing is, nothing is harder than writing. Except not writing. Thus I wasted many years suppressing the urge to write, until, one day, just like that, I left my mother’s house to become a farmer. Read more

Tags: , , , , ,

I'm finishing up a phd at Duke University where I study African novels, which I believe are some of the loveliest things ever written. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


Nnedi Okorafor’s Chicken in the Kitchen Wins Children’s Africana Book Award


On October 8th, Nnedi Okorafor attended a ceremony at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC  where […]

Adichie Has Some Thoughts About Michelle Obama as a Figure of Black Femininity


As Michelle Obama concludes her 8-year run as first lady, The New York Times Style Magazine assembles a group of […]

Welcome to London | by Lucky Edobor | An African Story


05:40 am. The immigration man’s backside is too flat, even for a skinny white man. It is hard to not […]

Opportunity for African Writers | Entries are Open for the Brunel University African Poetry Prize


Entries are officially opened for the Brunel University International African Poetry Prize. You can now enter your poems for a […]

Chibundu Onuzo’s Brand New Ultra-Chic Author Photos


A week ago, Chibundu Onuzo shared this photograph above on Instagram with the caption: “There comes a time in every […]

Imperialism-in-Artistry: Bob Dylan’s Nobel Win Is Proof Adichie Is Right about Beyonce | by Otosirieze Obi-Young


IN A RECENT INTERVIEW with the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant, ahead of the Dutch translation of her We Should All […]