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Fiction Friday: Read Excerpts from Nigerians in Space and We are the Olfanauts by Deji Bryce Olukotun

Nigerians in SpaceDeji Bryce Olukotun leapt onto the literary stage with his 2014 debut, Nigerians in Space, which Matt McGregor described in a review for Warscapes as “a transnational mystery novel replete with assassins, abalone poaching and an international fashion model who exudes light from her skin”.

Olukotun was born in New Jersey and is half-Nigerian, half-American. The author obtained an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Cape Town under the guidance of André Brink, Mike Nicol, Andre Wiesner and Henrietta Rose-Innes.

Electric Literature chose Olukotun’s new ePublication, We are the Olfanauts, as their recommended read of the week and shared an extract from the chilling story.

Renton, the protagonist, works for Olfanautics, the “global pioneer in scented social media”, and holds a world of smells at his fingertips.

Read the excerpt:

Our team was based in a multibillion-dollar technology park fifteen kilometers outside Nairobi, and our data servers, which would have made us liable under Kenyan law, floated above national airspace in tethered balloons. The Danish architect had modeled the Olfanautics complex after a scene from Karen Blixen’s novel, as if that was what we secretly aspired to, a coffee ranch nestled against the foothills of some dew-soaked savannah. The cafeteria was intended to replicate the feel of a safari tent. Catenary steel cables held up an undulating layer of fabric, which gleamed white in the midday sun. In reality, the tent was the closest I had ever been to a safari. I only left Nairobi to go rock climbing.

Aubrey found me as I was ordering a double veggie burger with half a bun and six spears of broccollini. I could tell from the few frayed braids poking out of her headwrap that she had not slept well last night, nor had she gone to the campus hairdresser to clean herself up. I reached for her thigh as soon as she sat down but she swatted it away.

“I told you to send it up.”

“Nice to see you, too, Aubrey,” I said.

“I’m your boss, Renton. If I say send the video up, then send it up. You’re making me look bad.”

That was the problem with dating your supervisor. She thought any discussion could be resolved by pulling rank.

“Didn’t you whyff the strawberries? They were hilarious, hey. That girl’s an actress or something.”

TBN Fiction also shared an extract from Nigerians in Space, a crime thriller about Africa’s “brain drain” set in South Africa, Nigeria and America.

In the excerpt, Leon is trying to teach Thursday the intricate art of harvesting abalone:

It took four nights of heavy drinking, cajoling, and a wet kiss from Leon’s girl Fadanaz for Thursday to say he would consider going into the water. Even then he never thought it would come to pass. But soon they were sitting in the Merc next to a row of strelitzia palms that wound along a dirt road to the beach in the dusk, their fronds spreading out like press-on fingernails. He would have been able to hear the pounding surf if Leon wasn’t thumping his Kwaito music, and they’d both grown up near the sea so he didn’t smell the seaweed any more. Thursday had resolved that this time he would be firm with Leon—he was not going in the water, there was no way he was going in.

“I can’t do it, my broer,” Thursday declared. “I don’t know how.”

“Come on, Thursday,” Leon said. “I started with nothing. I was out there in the rocks all alone with the police, pulling myself on the kelp.” Leon laughed, in awe of himself, reminiscing. “Should have been on the news. I can barely even swim. You’ve got the breather and my lank equipment. The breather is easier than a tank.” He began pumping his head to the syncopated rhythms of the Kwaito.

“Can’t you give me your mask?”

“I gave you my old mask, voetsak. My new one cost a thousand bucks. It’s not my fault you’ve got a conch for a nose.”

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Photo courtesy of ReturnoftheDeji and Deji Olukotun (@dejiridoo) on Twitter


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