Vagabonds! is rather unique, in that debut author, Eloghosa Osunde, chaotically pulls us through a thread of tales without the comfort of a narrative arc or structure that we are used to from a novel. Evocative of the chaos of its setting, Lagos, as well as the lives of the queers and the displaced in contemporary Nigeria, this book takes a while to settle.
Èkó and minion Tatafo weave trouble through the streets of Lagos. It’s a book which could easily be as much of a short story collection, as a novel. With Tatafo as our guide we meet these people in the shadows, these Vagabonds, as you will. These characters include a driver for a debauched politician, a lesbian couple whose relationship sheds light on their underground sex work experience, and a mother who attends a secret spiritual gathering that changes her perception. With a strong focus on the unseen, the invincible, underground lives within Lagos, there is a sense of the spiritual as well as the brutality across the city, as their lives are seized and challenged. This is a novel that evokes the toxic sense of the city from the corruption and oppression that is present in everyday Lagos. The references to the girls of Boko Haram reminds us of the ever-present threats that exist in this city, this country, if not to the top of the hierarchy.
Eloghosa Osunde tackles the insidious nature of Nigerian capitalism in this defiant debut. However, the wide-angle perspective of the novel, which pulls in so many ‘vagabonds’ sometimes has a negative bearing on the reader, in that it’s not easy to connect with the characters and feel that sense of displacement. It is however, an interesting fictional read, especially for around the month of Pride 2022.
Vagabonds! is published by 4th Estate