23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023
Portrait Irenosen Okojie
© Ali Ghandtschi

Irenosen Okojie

Irenosen Okojie was born in Nigeria. At the age of eight, she moved to England with her family. While studying communication and visual culture at London Metropolitan University, she began working as a freelance writer. Her texts have appeared in many outlets, including »The New York Times«, »The Observer«, and »The Guardian«.
In 2015, she published her debut novel »Butterfly Fish«, which takes place on different timelines told in parallel: While Joy has to cope with her mother’s death in present-day London, Adesua finds herself adjusting to her role as the king’s eighth wife in 19th-century Benin. The links between the two women are told by Irenosen Okojie with humour and psychological sensitivity. The novel won the Betty Trask Award and was shortlisted for the Edinburgh First Book Award. Her debut was followed by »Speak Gigantular« (2016), a collection of short stories in which waitresses are abducted by lovesick aliens, a bank robber shows up in a chicken costume, and the London Underground is haunted by the ghosts of people who have taken their own lives. Despite serious themes such as kidnapping, rape, and death, Irenosen Okojie maintains a lightness in her storytelling; the stories are interspersed with magical realism and dry humour, and the originality of the ideas never allows the humanity of the characters to fade. »The Guardian« concluded that »Okojie delves into the painful, the unsayable, the unknowable. Her prose is precise and illuminating: love and loneliness are recurrent themes.« The book was shortlisted for the Edgehill Short Story Prize, the Jhalak Prize, the Saboteur Awards, and was nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award. Okojie published another volume of short stories in 2019 under the title »Nudibranch«. Time-traveling monks, a woman who turns into licorice, a love-starved sea goddess who finds herself on an island inhabited by eunuchs: In this volume, once again populated by bizarre characters, it is the attempt to push the limits of reality that interests Irenosen Okojie. Starting from the everyday, she lets the stories slip into the surreal or supernatural. »Nudibranch« was longlisted for the Jhalak Prize. Irenosen Okojie received the 2020 AKO Caine Prize For Fiction for the story »Grace Jones«, included in the volume, about a Grace Jones impersonator whose tragic past is gradually exposed over the course of the story.
Irenosen Okojie is a regular judge for literary awards and a presenter at literary events. She is a Fellow and Vice-Chair of the Royal Society of Literature. The author lives in London.


Butterfly Fish
Jacaranda Books
London, 2015

Speak Gigantular
Jacaranda Books
London, 2016

Dialogue Books
London, 2019