The book opens with two local journalists on a rather dangerous trip. Zaq, old-timer and cynic but still has the skills to seek out a good story and apprentice Rufus. A British oil engineer's wife has gone missing, believed kidnapped and the two journalists are following her trail. Zaq comes across as an interesting character; all-seeing, all-knowing albeit likes a drink or two. He's happy to impart years of knowledge to Rufus and tells him that ... the story is not always the final goal. What's really important, what the readers want to know and what sells newspapers is ... the meaning of the story.
As this conversation takes place between the two men, they are being escorted on a river trip. There are far too many dead birds, insects, animals and fish in and around this toxic swampy terrain. And the culprit? Oil. This oil is both an initial piece of good luck but then turns out to be the ultimate curse as the locals try to scrape a living in this part of Nigeria. Now, nothing grows. Habila, himself a Nigerian, describes a sad and sorrowful scene to the reader. The local people are poor and under-nourished, always looking over their shoulder (violence seems to be ever-present now) and their once rich soil is seeping black, dirty oil. And as I was reading this particular part of the book, BP's current oil difficulty was uppermost in my mind.
Zaq is under the impression that the Briti ... Read Full Review