1. Favourite book ever: I’d have to say Mariama Ba’s epistolatory ‘So Long A Letter’.
2. Why?: The power of the book to transport me, at 14, into another country and another emotional context. I think it was the first book I ever read written by a woman and translated into English by another woman, that confronted me with real emotional complexity and conflict. It also made me more aware of life in Francophone Africa, the differences in idiom, for example, and tone. More than 30 years later, I’m still thinking and talking about it.
3. Last book read?: ‘A Hologram for the King’ by Dave Eggers. I enjoyed it very much.
4. Packing for a journey and allowed to take one book. What will it be? :‘Omeros’ by Derek Walcott.
5. Why?: Well, Walcott has the precision and fluency of a true maestro. He is a poet’s poet in that regard. In more than eight thousand lines he doesn’t strike a single false or forced note, that is almost superhuman. He has a capacity for endless surprise. No matter how many times one reads Omeros, one encounters new things and that is worth remembering if one has only one book to bring along.
6. Who is your favourite author/writer? I think I have a different favourite depending on the genre. J.P Clark has great prose and many people don’t realise that. They think he is only a poet or only a playwright. His control of the language in, say, ‘America, Their America’ is something to behold and admire. In the essay form I read Biodun Jeyifo and Akin Adesokan for their clarity. I find Ibsen still a great model for drama and also Rotimi Babatunde. The pair of Niran Okewole and Peter Akinlabi are my duet in poetry. Their work has character.
8. Do you think Nigerians read? Nigerians read. And I don’t mean just motivational writing. Of course, Nigerians would read more if we had libraries and a better economy. Perhaps, my corner of Nigeria in Ibadan isn’t a typical place but I find there are people I can talk to whether the subject is the philosophy of Slavoj Zizek or the implications of cultural capital or its absence. I have friends in Ilorin, in Abuja, Sokoto, Minna, Port Harcourt and Lagos, who can hold their own anywhere on the planet.