Nigerian author Chigozie Obioma was inspired to write his 2024 novel The Road to the Country due to an encounter with a Yoruba truck driver that he had as a child.

Obioma’s latest novel is about the Biafram Civil War in Nigeria and set in the 1960s and 70s. The story explores the grimness of civil war and two brothers caught on opposing sides trying to find their way back to each other. It was published by Hogarth on June 4.

Obioma shared a clip from an Instagram interview where he talked about the characters in his novel, led by the main character Kunle, and the Biafran setting. He remarked that Kunle’s story was inspired by a truck driver he met when he was growing up who shared some of his veteran stories with him.

Kunle’s story came about to me when I stumbled upon a neighbor in the West of Nigeria when I was growing up . . . It was a truck driver at the start of the war. He didn’t know or didn’t believe that a war had broken out. He was used to taking goods into the Eastern region which had become Biafra overnight. He drives in there to go and supply his goods and realizes that indeed a war has broken out and he’s forcefully conscripted into the Biafran army. So that was the inspiration for the character of Kunle. I was able to draw on some of the stories that this particular veteran and others have shared with me. It is a war novel so he journeys into some very grim and gritty stuff which I wouldn’t’say were fun to write.

Listen to the full interview below:

Obioma’s novel is an odyssey of brotherhood, love, and unimaginable courage set during one of the most devastating conflicts in the history of Africa. Its is the epic story of a shy, bookish student haunted by long-held guilt who must go to war to free himself. When his younger brother disappears as the country explodes in civil war, Kunle must set out on an impossible rescue mission. Kunle’s search for his brother becomes a journey of atonement that will see him conscripted into the breakaway Biafran army and forced to fight a war he hardly understands, all while navigating the prophecies of a local Seer, he who marks Kunle as an abami eda—one who will die and return to life.

Chigozie Obioma was born in Akure, Nigeria. His two previous novels, The Fishermen and An Orchestra of Minorities, were both finalists for the Booker Prize. His novels have won the inaugural FT/OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices Award for Fiction, the NAACP Image Award, and the Los Angeles Times Award for First Fiction and have been nominated for many others. Together, they have been translated into thirty languages. He was named one of Foreign Policy’s 100 Leading Global Thinkers. He is a professor of creative writing at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and divides his time between the United States and Nigeria.

Buy The Road to the Country here.