MY THOUGHTS ON ‘THE CARNIVOUROUS CITY’ BY TONI KAN
When Abel left for Lagos in search of his missing brother, little did he know that Lagos is a carnivorous city that devours you to satisfy its insatiable appetite? The carnivorous city is a story of adventure, love, relationships, family, greed, hustle, self discovery, identity, unintentional transformation, reality, and all that makes Lagos so distasteful yet desirable. It is a story of human struggle for survival in a city where everyone is a soldier on the war front soaked in the disillusionment of their ecstasy. It teaches you to live but not to be too sure of living. It breaks you, bends you, moulds you, makes you, and then kills you.
The novel is a tour guide. It takes you places and feeds your imagination; there is the ikorodu, ikeja, yaba, mushin, ilupeju, onigbongbo, ogba, egbeda, shomolu, onipanu part of Lagos; there is also the lekki, ikoyi, Victoria island part of this same Lagos. It dichotomises class relatively. It introduces you people and explores varying identities; from Soni to Dr. Nicole, to Mayowa, to Abel, and others whose identities and stories culminate to become Lagos. Lagos is not a city, it’s the people. Everyone is a “beast with bared fang” awaiting whom to devour next.
The uncertainty and the dramas, the unintentional transformation from who you are to who you become, the flux of events and the chauvinism of people, makes Lagos carnivorous. There is a general rule, though not documented in any constitution yet abided to. It is the rule of survival; the resilience to keep going, unsure of your destination yet optimistic that somehow, someway you’ll get there.
Toni Kan presents an enjoyable read that exposes, not just the reality of a city, but also the facades of humanity and inhumanity that exalts a city. The novel is an indigenous representation of the city. It shows the writers immersion with the city. The style is friendly, apt and unapologetic. The flow is natural and electric. Every line sinks into ones imagination with the realisation of “Yeah! This is actually Lagos”. You're sure somewhere in this city, there is a Soni, a Mayowa, a Dr. Nicole, or maybe an Abel.
At some point, the writer slaps you with history and punches you with nostalgia which makes it difficult for you to escape from its bared fang. The novel accuses a city of being carnivorous yet devours its reader in entirety.
The book is timely as Lagos, the city in which it is set, celebrates its fiftieth anniversary, revolving around stories and dramas that fit into the unconsciousness of its existence.
My perception of African literature goes thus:
That piece which appeals to my imagination and shares some bond with my reality and existence. Not the one that blackmails my identity.
Toni Kan has given such masterpiece.