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A. Igoni Barrett

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A. Igoni Barrett
Born (1979-03-26) 26 March 1979 (age 45)
Port Harcourt, Nigeria
NationalityNigerian, Jamaican
GenreShort stories, novels
Notable worksBlackass (2016)
Notable awardsChinua Achebe Center Fellowship
SpouseFemke van Zeijl
ParentsLindsay Barrett (father)

Adrian Igonibo Barrett (born 26 March 1979) is a Nigerian writer of short stories and novels. In 2014, he was named on the Africa39 list of writers aged under 40 with potential and talent to define future trends in African literature.[1] Following his two collections of short stories – From Caves of Rotten Teeth (2005) and Love Is Power, or Something Like That (2013) – his first novel, Blackass, was published in 2015, described by the Chicago Review of Books as "Kafka with a wink".[2]


Born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, to a Nigerian mother and the Jamaican novelist and poet Lindsay Barrett,[3] A. Igoni Barrett studied agriculture at the University of Ibadan, although one year before graduating he decided that he wanted to be a writer. He has said: "My father was the first person to support me as a writer. I felt I had to prove to myself that I was serious about writing, so I gave the ultimate sacrifice – I gave up my university education for a self-education in writing."[3] In 2007 Barrett moved to Lagos, where he met his wife, the Dutch journalist and writer Femke van Zeijl.[4]

His first book, a collection of short stories entitled From Caves of Rotten Teeth, was published in 2005 and reissued in 2008.[5] A story from the collection, "The Phoenix", won the 2005 BBC World Service short story competition.[6]

His second collection of stories, Love Is Power, or Something Like That, was published by Graywolf Press in 2013;[7] according to The Boston Globe, the collection "pulses with an indomitable life force that is, by turns, tender and fierce".[8] Time Out New York commented: "These rich pieces are also brilliantly sequenced.... Shifts in mood happen throughout the book.... Unlikely moments of empathy occur again and again amid wrenching drama and subtle comedy; the resulting collection satisfies on numerous levels."[9] Love is Power, or Something Like That was chosen as a "best book of 2013" by NPR[10] and Flavorwire.[11]

His debut novel, entitled Blackass, was published in 2015. Reviewing it in The Financial Times, Jon Day wrote: "From the first sentence, Kafka’s The Metamorphosis confronts you with the inherent strangeness of the pact you make when you read fiction. Gregor Samsa has become an insect, Kafka says. Suspend your disbelief. Take it or leave it.[12] A Igoni Barrett’s first novel — his third book — demands a similar response....to read him only as a Nigerian writer would be to do him a disservice. For Blackass is a strange, compelling novel, and Barrett has something to tell us all."[13] Writing in The Guardian, Helon Habila said: "Igoni Barrett's greatest asset is his ability to satirise the ridiculous extents people, especially Lagosians, go to in order to appear important."[14] Claire Fallon for the Huffington Post concluded: "Blackass is a blunt, transparently written novel — the kind that makes the reader feel as though they’re standing inside the skin of the character, going about his day with him — and though the topic could easily be that of a polemic, it’s also a subtle, circumspect novel about the intersecting, sometimes mutually exclusive needs humans have for family and connection, and for status and power."[15] Aaron Bady of OkayAfrica calls it "the most unapologetically Nigerian book that American publishers have published in a long time, and as the 'Afropolitan' has become an increasingly omnipresent strand of contemporary African literature, there has been a steady backlash, both against the Afropolitan as such, and against the entire category of African immigrant literature.[16]

Invited as a participant to various literary festivals, Barrett was a guest reader on the opening night of the PEN World Voices Festival in 2013,[17] and a guest writer at the Serpentine Galleries' Miracle Marathon in 2016[18][19] and the 2018 edition of Festivaletteratura.[20] He was the founding organizer of the BookJam reading series[21] in Lagos, Nigeria, which featured the writers Jude Dibia, Michela Wrong, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Binyavanga Wainaina, Helon Habila and Tsitsi Dangarembga, among others.

Barrett's work has appeared in several publications, including Al Jazeera English[22] and The Guardian.[23]

Awards and accolades[edit]

A. Igoni Barrett was a winner of the BBC World Service short story competition for 2005 with a story entitled "The Phoenix", which was broadcast on 2 January 2006.[24][25]

In 2010, he was awarded a Chinua Achebe Center Fellowship. In 2011, he was awarded a Norman Mailer Center Fellowship[26] and a Bellagio Center Residency.[27]

Barrett was named as one of 39 sub-Saharan African writers aged under 40[28] in the Hay Festival and Rainbow Book Club Africa39 project celebrating Port Harcourt UNESCO World Book Capital 2014.

His debut novel Blackass won the People's Literature Publishing House and the Chinese Foreign Literature Society's 21st Century Best Foreign Novel Award.[29]

He was a Civitella Ranieri Foundation Fellow in 2018.[30][31]

Igoni Barrett was a Charles Dickens Award laureate at the 2021 edition of the International London Literary Award.[32]


  • From Caves of Rotten Teeth: A Collection of Short Stories, Daylight Media Services, 2005, ISBN 9789780193591
  • Love Is Power, Or Something Like That: Stories, Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 2013, ISBN 9781555976408
  • Blackass, London: Chatto & Windus, 2015, ISBN 9780701188566;[a] Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 2016, ISBN 978-1-55597-733-7.[b][c]


  1. ^ Barrett, A. Igoni (2015). Blackass. London: Chatto & Windus. ISBN 9780701188566.
  2. ^ Blackass at Graywolf Press.
  3. ^ Briefly reviewed in the April 25, 2016 issue of The New Yorker, p.95.


  1. ^ Margaret Busby, "Africa39: how we chose the writers for Port Harcourt World Book Capital 2014", The Guardian Books Blog, 10 April 2014.
  2. ^ "In Blackass, A. Igoni Barrett Puts a Nigerian Spin on Kafka's Metamorphosis". Chicago Review of Books. 3 March 2016. Retrieved 19 July 2023.
  3. ^ a b "Nigerian Author Fights Brain Drain", Jamaica Gleaner, 22 May 2011.
  4. ^ "Q&A with author A Igoni Barrett", The Financial Times, 4 September 2015.
  5. ^ Samuel Kolawole for Efrika TV, part of the Guardian Africa Network (1 February 2013). "African novels to look out for". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  6. ^ "A. Igoni Barrett", AGNI Online.
  7. ^ "Chatto Acquire Talented Young Nigerian Author A. Igoni Barrett" Archived 10 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine, booktrade.info, 12 March 2012.
  8. ^ Jan Gardner, "‘Love is Power, Or Something Like That’ by A. Igoni Barrett" (review), Boston Globe, 17 May 2013.
  9. ^ Tobias Carroll, "Book review: Love Is Power, or Something Like That: Stories by A. Igoni Barrett", Time Out New York, 29 May 2013.
  10. ^ Recommended by Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, Best Books of 2013: NPR.
  11. ^ "The 10 Best Short Story Collections of 2013", Flavorwire.com, 10 December 2013.
  12. ^ Barrett, A. Igoni. "Blackass". www.penguin.co.uk. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  13. ^ Jon Day, "‘Blackass’, by A Igoni Barrett" (review), The Financial Times, 14 August 2015.
  14. ^ Helon Habila, "Blackass by A Igoni Barrett review – a cocktail of Kafka and comedy", The Guardian, 14 August 2015.
  15. ^ Claire Fallon, "The Bottom Line: ‘Blackass’ By A. Igoni Barrett", HuffPost Arts and Culture, 4 March 2016.
  16. ^ Aaron Bady, "A. Igoni Barrett’s “Blackass” And The Afropolitan Debate", OkayAfrica, 10 March 2016.
  17. ^ Larry Rohter, "PEN World Voices Festival to Focus on Art and Politics", The New York Times, 19 February 2013.
  18. ^ "Radio Serpentine: A. Igoni Barrett"
  19. ^ "Miracle Marathon 2016: A. Igoni Barrett", YouTube, 25 January 2017
  20. ^ "Interview with A. Igoni Barrett", Festivaletteratura.it, 6 September 2018
  21. ^ Okechukwu Uwaezuoke (20 November 2011). "Nigeria: Nurturing Future Writers". This Day. AllAfrica.com.
  22. ^ A. Igoni Barrett, "We all stand before history", AlJazeera.com, 10 November 2015.
  23. ^ "Be Careless With Your Wishes: A. Igoni Barrett On The Writing Life In Nigeria", The Guardian, 13 January 2016.
  24. ^ "Short Story Competition Winners 2005". BBC WorldService.com.
  25. ^ "The Phoenix", BBC World Service.
  26. ^ "2011 Sponsored Fellowships awarded to…". The Norman Mailer Center Newsfeed. 13 May 2011.
  27. ^ "Adrian Igonibo Barrett". The Rockefeller Foundation.org. Archived from the original on 10 November 2013.
  28. ^ List of artists, Africa39.
  29. ^ "年度最佳外国小说”先睹为快" Archived 2019-09-28 at the Wayback Machine, Xinhua News Agency, 2 April 2017.
  30. ^ "Civitella.org: A. Igoni Barrett"
  31. ^ Shercliff, Emma (8 December 2015). "Five Nigerian novelists you should read | British Council". www.britishcouncil.org. Retrieved 18 May 2020.
  32. ^ "Laureates of International London Literary Award In category Professionals", The International Union of Writers website, 9 March 2021.

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