Nigerian culture is suddenly very hip. Do you think that's a good thing?
TC: I always come to this with the view that Nigeria is the size of France with 122 million people and I believe that by rights, a country that large should have a voice on the world stage. The population of America is perhaps twice that of Nigeria, and we certainly hear a lot from them. Why? They’re no more important as people. There are fewer French people than Nigerians. Fewer British people and we hear a lot from them too. In that sense I have a very straight forward approach to rights and equality, which is: every Nigerian person should be as important as any other person.
But can that be equality really be achieved through cultural appropriation?
TC: Well I don’t exactly love that stuff, but it’s almost like we have to pass through that phase. Like India has always been appropriated but over the past few decades a lot of Indian voices have also asserted themselves on the international scene. The doors might have been opened through appropriation, but now a lot of Indian people do what they want without reference to American or British interests.
Do you think you were able to assert your voice because you had experience of living both in Nigeria and America?
TC: I certainly think it helps that neither of those cultures are strange to me now.
Do you see Every Day is for the Thief as a sister text to Open City?
TC: I think they’re very related in quite peculiar ways. The narratives are similar with enough in common for you to know that they came from the same writer. And they’re both maddeningly connected to me in some way, which makes it very easy for people to assume that my narrator is all me. Or at least very close to the person I am. People are often surprised to find that I am quite extroverted.
Is that because your narrators are usually quite elusive?
TC: That’s right. They’re quite introverted. They give a general vibe of, ‘Oh I’m interested in many things but I can’t be bothered.’ Now I’m interested in many things but I do get engaged and it surprises me that people think I’m this serious, introverted person. I wrote a piece only yesterday which, might I say, is pretty fucking hilarious.
You’re more active on social media than a lot of novelists. Do you get people following you on Twitter who have never read the books and vice versa?
TC: Yes, there can be a lot of separation between audiences. Sometimes people tweet at me saying, “You have a way with words, you should write a book.” I also encounter people who see this serious, intellectual side in my books and then they come to Twitter and are thinking, ‘who’s this frivolous jerk?’
I think a lot of people like their literary figures to be unreachable, especially in the US, which by being on Twitter I’m not. Commenting on current affairs is not something novelists really do in the US. A novelist isn’t going to write an op-ed about Isis or drone warfare for the New York Times. Which is strange, because anywhere else in the world, a novelist is someone who also has a column in a national newspaper.
Bret Easton Ellis and Irvine Welsh both push the envelope more than me on social media. Except that Irvine Welsh has a lot of British followers that are more accommodating to ‘bad behaviour’, whereas Americans are more puritanical. They’re very keen for people to be inoffensive.