Abstract

In Chris Abani’s Graceland, the city is a spatio-temporal terrain connecting diverse worlds. It is a place of dialogue and conflict, a ‘city of attractions’ (Highmore 45) and distractions, dystopia and utopia. As an urban space, Abani’s Lagos is seen through a rookery, a tenement city called Maroko and through the life story of the sixteen-year-old protagonist, Elvis Oke. The plot development alternates between Lagos the city in the present and Afikpo, Elvis’s countryside home — in the past. This shift in time and space moves memory between Afikpo and Lagos, and plots the simultaneity of dystopian and utopian living in the present Lagosian cityscape. The dystopian existence portrayed in the poverty, deprivation and filth intermingles with utopia — the surreality of dreams, wishes, hopes and the connected imagination of worlds apart. Maroko’s life-blood is found in the hope of flight and the power of imagination triggered by the pervasive forms of mass media available for consumption.

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