Teju Cole may have received widespread acclaim for his debut novel, Open City, but as of late, the Nigerian-American novelist has staked his claim on Twitter. Earlier this year, he reframed classic works of fiction as short stories about drones. Today, Cole is using the microblogging service to chronicle a car journey up the so-called Slave Coast of western Africa.
(All day today I'll be live-tweeting, as best as I can, and with pictures, a journey overland across the Slave Coast, from Lagos to Ouidah.)— Teju Cole (@tejucole) July 19, 2013
Between the Niger Delta and Lomé, three million people were sold into slavery by their neighbors. Most passed through Lagos and Ouidah.— Teju Cole (@tejucole) July 19, 2013
The journey is taking Cole from Lagos, a major port in Nigeria, to Ouidah, the port in Benin from which many enslaved Africans were shipped to the New World. Like all great travel writing, Cole's tweets are evocative and rich with detail. He is familiar with the landscape, but also curious about it:
It seemed the city would never end. How could it? But by Agbara, the grammar of the road had loosened and the landscape had become fluent.— Teju Cole (@tejucole) July 19, 2013
The land raced, thousands of coconut trees, each a green firework caught at tremendous speed. And all of a sudden: Seme.— Teju Cole (@tejucole) July 19, 2013
Moreover, Cole is taking black-and-white photographs, which he has been including along with his tweets, making this a truly postmodern travelogue:
The border is busy mud. pic.twitter.com/8prXc2kKd3— Teju Cole (@tejucole) July 19, 2013
In large part, the journey seems to be calling attention to the plight of western Africa, whose troubled governments and economic plight have recently been the subjects of two pieces in The New Yorker.
Seme is a mess, governed by the energies of fat malevolent men, or men who wish someday to be fat. They all hassle us for money.— Teju Cole (@tejucole) July 19, 2013
But it is also simply a journey, one that does not need an agenda. Unless you're in that car with Cole, you can follow him here.