263pp., paperback, London, 2015
Winner of the 2017 Betty Trask Prize.
Novel set in northern Nigeria. During an election Dantala and his gang of street boys are paid by the Small Party to cause trouble. When their attempt to burn down the opposition’s headquarters ends in disaster, Dantala takes shelter in a mosque, where he becomes a favoured apprentice to the sheikh. When one of the sheikh’s closest advisors begins to raise his own radical fundamentalist movement and there is bloodshed, Dantala has to decide what kind of Muslim, and what kind of man, he wants to be.
“... a thoughtful, nuanced first novel, employing a style that is as unadorned as it is unflinching ... [John's] restraint in handling difficult material is just one of his many gifts ... Born on a Tuesday brings home the reality of what is happening in northern Nigeria with a power the news reports of Boko Haram’s atrocities can’t adequately project. Elnathan John is a writer to watch.” Fiammetta Rocco, New York Times Book Review
“With brave, unflinching candor expressed through spare, unadorned prose, Elnathan John considers the rise of Islamic extremism in Nigeria as experienced by one young man. Anyone seeking to peer beyond the media's portrayals of Boko Haram must read this book, not because it offers a hopeful account but because it offers a human one.” Taiye Selasi, author of Ghana Must Go
“[An] impressive debut ... I was carried along by the endearing voice of the young, sensitive narrator, his instinctive goodness and intelligence in making sense and finding beauty in the brutality, poverty, and oppression surrounding him. The novel manages to pull off two aims at the same time - giving the reader a sophisticated understanding of contemporary Nigerian politics and the pleasure of a tender and classy coming of age story.” Leila Aboulela, author of Elsewhere, Home; Lyrics Alley and The Kindness of Enemies
Elnathan John was born in Nigeria in 1982. In 2012 he stopped working as a lawyer to write full-time. He has twice been shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing. He is a 2015 Civitella Ranieri Fellow, writes a satiric column for a Nigerian newspaper, and has had work published in Per Contra, Financial Times, Le Monde Diplomatique, Chimurenga’s Chronic, Hazlitt, and the Evergreen Review. Born on a Tuesday is his debut novel. He lives in Abuja.