Biyi Bandele (real name Bandele-Thomas) was born in 1967 in northern Nigeria, a region which is largely Muslim. He stems from a family which belonged to the Yoruba tribe and converted to Christianity. He left his parents’ house at the age of 14 to earn his living doing odd jobs, while also still going to school. At this time he had already started work on his first novel. He studied Drama at the University of Ile-Ife from 1987 to 1990. With his theater piece “Rain” he won first prize in a competition, which was a scholarship for a one-year stay in London. Bandele-Thomas remained in London to work as a freelance writer and has since written a quick succession of texts: narrative prose, poetry, radio plays, screenplays, and theater pieces. He has received various awards, including the London New Play Festival Award (1994) and has accepted invitations to go on reading tours, attend conferences, and see performances of his pieces in the U.S. and Canada as well as in various countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Since 1993 he has primarily published his work under the name Biyi Bandele.
His first novel “The Man Who Came in from the Back of Beyond” was published in London in 1991 and in the same year in Germany under the title “Bozo David Hurensohn”; it depicts a shrill and realistic panorama of modern Nigeria. The novel’s first-person narrator, Lakemfa, befriends his teacher who initially seems a bit odd. This teacher not only shares his own past with Lakemfa, thereby triggering adventurous incidents, but also gives him a manuscript to read, which is about Bozo, whose real name is David, but who is only called bastard by his father. Although at the end both stories prove themselves to be fiction, they trigger a process of change and maturity for Lakemfa. At the same time Bozo stands for a country, which following a war and a fatal oil boom is in a state of upheaval. Daily school life, omnipresent violence also in the family, tension between urban bustle and rural life – Bandele transposes all of that in a language that is rich in imagery and not lastly humorous. His elaborate narrative technique, his wealth of language as well as his rich fantasy, which always adds surprising surrealistic twists to his plots, have repeatedly caused critics to draw parallels with representatives of magic realism, like his fellow countryman Ben Okri. His third novel, “Burma Boy” will be published in June 2007.
© international literature festival berlin