Eloghosa Osunde’s Debut Novel, Vagabonds!, Follows a Host of Lagos “Outlaws”

The forthcoming book “traces a wild array of characters for whom life itself is a form of resistance,” who “are seized and challenged by spirits who command the city’s dark energy.”
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Vagabonds by Eloghosa Osunde.

Vagabonds by Eloghosa Osunde.

The Nigerian writer and multidisciplinary artist Eloghosa Osunde’s novel Vagabonds! will be published in March 2022, by Riverhead Books in the US, Farafina Books in Nigeria, and, after a four-publisher auction, Fourth Estate in the UK. It is Osunde’s debut work of fiction.

Here is a description:

In the bustling streets and cloistered homes of Lagos, a cast of vivid characters—some haunted, some defiant—navigate danger, demons, and love in a quest to lead true lives.

As in Nigeria, vagabonds are those whose existence is literally outlawed: the queer, the poor, the displaced, the footloose and rogue spirits. They are those who inhabit transient spaces, who make their paths and move invisibly, who embrace apparitions, old vengeances and alternative realities. 

Eloghosa Osunde’s brave, fiercely inventive novel traces a wild array of characters for whom life itself is a form of resistance: a driver for a debauched politician with the power to command life and death; a legendary fashion designer who gives birth to a grown daughter; a lesbian couple whose tender relationship sheds unexpected light on their experience with underground sex work; a wife and mother who attends a secret spiritual gathering that shifts her world. As their lives intertwine—in bustling markets and underground clubs, churches and hotel rooms—vagabonds are seized and challenged by spirits who command the city’s dark energy.

Whether running from danger, meeting with secret lovers, finding their identities, or vanquishing their shadowselves, Osunde’s characters confront and support one another, before converging for the once-in-a-lifetime gathering that gives the book its unexpectedly joyous conclusion.

Blending unvarnished realism with myth and fantasy, Vagabonds! is a vital work of imagination that takes us deep inside the hearts, minds, and bodies of a people in duress—and in triumph.

Eloghosa Osunde is an alumna of the Farafina Creative Writing Workshop, the Caine Prize Workshop, and the New York Film Academy. Her writing has been featured in The Paris Review, Gulf Coast, Georgia Review, Guernica, Catapult, and Berlin Quarterly, and her visual art in Vogue, The New York Times, and Paper Magazine. She is a recipient of a 2017 Miles Morland Scholarship, a 2019 Lambda Literary Fellow, a 2020 MacDowell Colony Fellow, and winner of the 2021 Plimpton Prize for Fiction. 

Eloghosa Osunde. Credit: Eloghosa Osunde.
Eloghosa Osunde. Credit: Eloghosa Osunde.

On her blog, she shared that “The book, like Lagos, is full of flawed people, spirits of all dispositions, children, lovers, squatters, families in their many iterations, queerness in all its forms, people of all classes and abilities.”

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She continued, “I’m proud to have written this. I’m proud of every time I fought to give myself what I knew I’d need to complete this book. I’m proud of the day I decided to choose this work with my chest and stop playing it safe. I wrote this because it’s the book I’ve been missing. I wrote it because I wanted a book that wasn’t shy to say what it meant, that wasn’t afraid to disregard and overwrite and upturn what is considered normal or upright or worthy; a book that isn’t afraid of its own madness; a book with its own secrets, rules and commandments.”

Fourth Estate editorial director Kishani Widyaratna told The Bookseller, “I have not read a debut novel as fearless or as original as Vagabonds! in quite some time. It is a rare novel which deftly executes a thrilling highwire act of being dazzling, brutal, innovative, and deeply moving all in one. Eloghosa Osunde is a blazing new talent and we couldn’t be more excited to share her work with readers.”

Paula Willie-Okafor
Paula Willie-Okafor is a staff writer at Open Country Mag. She is a student at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where she is custodian of The Writers' Community (TWC). Her writing has appeared in Kissing Dynamite Magazine and Praxis Magazine.

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