Portrait Elnathan John
© Hartwig Klappert

Guest 2015.


Flowers and Phantoms

[In: Cavalcade, 1/1]


Love in a Time of Protests

[In: ZAM Magazine]

März 2012

Bayan Layi


[In: Per Contra 25]




[In: Per Contra 33]


Born on A Tuesday

Cassava Republic Press

Abuja, 2015


Elnathan John [ Nigeria ]

Elnathan John was born in 1966 in Kaduna, Nigeria. After completing the study of law at Ahmadu Bello University in 2007, John worked as a lawyer before turning to writing full time in 2012.

John self-published his first collection of short stories in 2008 in a small run that is now out of print. In 2009, his story »Flowers and Phantoms« appeared in the first issue of the publication »Cavalcade.« His writings have also appeared in magazines such as »ZAM,« »Evergreen Review,« and »Per Contra,« an international journal of literature, arts, and ideas, which also published his short story »Bayan Layi,« which was shortlisted for the 2013 Caine Prize for African Writing. John uses short, unadorned sentences to describe the brutal everyday life of a gang of street children fighting for survival in the titular city. The author doesn’t shy away from depicting how neglect, hunger, and immaturity lead to brutality, including the violent persecution of people of other ethnicities, or of homosexuals. Sudanese writer Leila Aboulela, who was on the Caine Prize jury in 2013, remarked about the selection process among the nominated works, that they all »reflected the economic, political and social difficulties of life in Africa.« In a tweet, John himself described his relationship with Nigeria as »abusive.« In recent stories, he has attacked issues such as pastoralism, sexuality in Nigeria, and modern Islamic history in the country’s north. That is also the setting for his novel »Born on a Tuesday,«, which will be published in 2015 by Cassava Republic Press, the publishing house founded by Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, with an American edition planned for 2016 from Grove Atlantic. John is once again nominated for the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2015 for his short story »Flying,« also published in journal »Per Contra.« It starts with a dream of flying and ends with a crippled chicken – a synopsis that gives a fairly good impression of how John, despite the brevity of the tale, continues to skillfully defy reader expectations. And although the narration from a child’s point of view is cracked by moments of gravity and maturity, it never loses credibility.

John received a 2015 writer in residence fellowship from the Civitella Ranieri Foundation in Umbria, Italy. He writes a satirical column for the »Sunday Trust« newspaper and regularly speaks out on issues in literature, the media, and politics in his home country. He lives in Abuja, Nigeria.