Taduno's Song

Taduno's Song

by Odafe Atogun


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A stunning debut from a new voice in Nigerian literature: a mesmerizing, Kafkaesque narrative, informed by the life of musical superstar Fela Kuti.

The day a stained brown envelope arrives from Lagos, the exiled musician Taduno knows that the time has come to return home. Arriving back in Nigeria full of hope, he soon discovers that his people no longer recognize or remember him or his music, and that his girlfriend, Lela, has disappeared, abducted by government agents. As Taduno unravels the mystery of his lost life and searches for his lost love, he must face a difficult decision: to fight for Lela or for his people. A stunning work of fiction, Taduno’s Song is a heartfelt, deeply affecting tale of love, sacrifice, and courage.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Burning with magic and loss, exile and return, beauty and heartache . . . A colossal epic disguised as a small novel.” —Marlon James, author of the Man Booker Prize-winning A Brief History of Seven Killings

“A powerful, lingering fable. . . . Atogun presents us with a dreamlike vision of Nigeria chained to its past.” —Financial Times

“Entrancingly and exquisitely composed. . . . A poetic and delightful narrative about one musician and his struggle to be true to his people, his love and ultimately himself. . . . One of those stories that can only truthfully be classified as pure magic.” —Counterpunch
“The power of music to stir memory and move the hardest heart permeates Taduno’s Song. . . . I urge people to read this unforgettable new voice, writing in polished, gleaming prose about how it feels to be silenced.” —Anita Sethi, The Observer

“Uniting a retelling of the Orpheus myth, an indictment of totalitarian inhumanity, and a Kafkaesque meditation on identity within the spare language of fable, Atogun’s memorable debut novel testifies to the power of both oppression and art. . . . Atogan’s allegory, at once bleak and hopeful . . . speak[s] clearly and powerfully.” —Publishers Weekly (starred)
“A rich, multilayered work, exploring lessons of freedom, self-worth, forgiveness and faithfulness.” —The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, IA)
“Thoughtful readers will be enthralled. . . . Atogun’s simple, direct prose is the perfect vehicle for the complex questions he poses.” —Library Journal
“This quiet novel is an original. It is as if the writer, Mr. Atogun, has plunged into the depth [of] the sea of Nigeria’s history and returned with a leviathan, and has invited us to see—and be amused, troubled, scared, and even angry. And we can not help but look” —Chigozie Obioma, author of The Fishermen
“Atogun is not without Kafka’s often humane and comic touches. Like Orwell, Atogun excels in plain language, in reducing situations to their bare essentials. Yet the author resists reducing his characters to mere political symbols. They are compelling as people in their own right. . . . [Taduno’s Song] is likely to become a small classic of protest literature.” —BookPage
“A must-read. . . . [Atogun’s] writing is reminiscent of Coetzee’s South African dystopian novels like Waiting for the Barbarians, with more than a touch of magical realism.” —LitHub
“The story has universal appeal as it broadens from Kafkaesque allegory to broader satire, the writing assured and controlled.” —Kirkus Reviews

Observer - ANITA SETHI

The power of music to stir memory and move the hardest heart permeates Taduno's Song . . . I urge people to read this unforgettable new voice, writing in polished prose about how it feels to be silenced

Glasgow Sunday Herald

Atogun's debut novel is a dystopian satire in which a retelling of the Orpheus myth is spiced up with fantastical and Kafkaesque elements while also invoking the memory of Nigerian musical icon Fela Kuti. As political as it is, the characters are never reduced to mere cyphers and Atogun keeps us in suspense to the very end

The Student

Beautifully written and thoroughly engaging . . . Atogun is a writer with untold potential


A heartfelt and imaginative story told with sincerity and compassion

Chigozie Obioma

This quiet novel is an original. It is as if Odafe Atogun has plunged into the depths of the sea of Nigeria's history and returned with a leviathan, and invited us to see - and be amused, troubled, scared, and even angry. And we cannot help but look

Marlon James

Burning with magic and loss, exile and return, beauty and heartache, Taduno's Song is a colossal epic, disguised as a small novel


Burning with magic and loss, exile and return, beauty and heartache, Taduno's Song is a colossal epic, disguised as a small novel

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101972984
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/20/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt


The morning the letter arrived he was like a man in ashell, deaf to the voices in his head from a distant place,calling him, imploring him with old promises.
  It was a dull morning with no hint of sun, no hint ofrain, no hint of anything; just a dull morning that broughta letter in a stained brown envelope from his homeland,delivered by an elderly postman wearing horn-rimmedspectacles and boots twice the size of his feet.
  Studying the handwriting on the envelope, his eyes litup in recognition. But then a frown crept across his faceand he wondered how a letter simply marked TADUNO –no last name, no address, just Taduno – managed to reachhim in a nameless foreign town. He thought of asking thepostman how he found him with no address, but becausehe could not speak the language of the people of thattown, he merely gave a small nod of thanks and watchedthe elderly man drag himself away in his oversized bootsuntil he became a speck in the distance.
  The letter changed the tone of his day and he knew, even before he began to read it, that the time had come for him to go back. He had always known that that day would come, but he never suspected it would be prompted by a mysterious letter portending a vague but grave disaster.He settled into a chair by an open window and studied the empty street. He saw no movement, no life, nothing; just an emptiness that came at him in waves. A small sigh escaped him, and as the barking of a lone dog cracked the quiet neighbourhood, he adjusted his seat for a better view of the street. He saw the dog a little way off, scrawny and lonely, wandering with an invisible burden on its tired back. It was the first and only time he would see a dog in that town, and he suspected that, like himself, it must have strayed into exile from a country governed by a ruthless dictator. He felt sorry for the dog. He shook his head and began to read the letter.

                                                                                                   20th February, 19—

Dear Taduno,
I hope you are very well and that the country where you have found refuge is treating you kindly. I know you’ll wonder how I managed to get this letter across to you without an address. Well, all I can say is ‘where there is a will there is always a way’.
  At first I did not want to write because I thought you deserve the opportunity to start life afresh and build new memories. But I must confess that ever since you left, life has been an unbearable torture for me. I have never stopped thinking about you, and I never will. Do you remember all the dreams we shared but never lived, the future we never realised? I remember. I have remembered every day since you left. But that’s not why I write this letter.Forgive me if my letter disrupts the peace you must be enjoying now. Forgive me if it brings back all the bad memories you fled.
  Forgive me for this invasion of your new life. But I thought I would not be doing you any good by failing to inform you now of what may turn out to be a tragic discovery for you later.
  In time to come, should you yield to the pull of your roots, you may be returning home to unpleasant surprises. Since you left, very strange things have been happening in Nigeria, and Lagos particularly has changed in a way I cannot describe with words. I must confess, I don’t know exactly what is going on – nobody knows; all I can say is that things are changing drastically here, and the city of Lagos is not the same as we used to know it.
  This is why I thought I should write, to encourage you to build a life elsewhere knowing that very soon nothing may remain the same here.
  For me, I continue to hold on to old memories. They are all that will be left when there is nothing left. I pray earnestly that you find new memories to cherish.
  Look after yourself.

By the time he finished reading, it was no longer a morning with no hint of anything. The letter had changed that, and now he felt the urgent need to get some fresh air. He left the letter on the coffee table and went out into the garden where he wandered without any sense of time, troubled by the terribleness of a message he did not understand. He went through the letter again in his mind, very slowly, and he shuddered at the prospect of building a life elsewhere without Lela. Why would she even think like that? What’s going on back home? Questions ran across his mind; a familiar fear tugged at him.

Customer Reviews