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Exiled Nigerian novelist to read from works on campus

Chris Abani
Chris Abani
Photo / UCR/Carlos Puma

Award-winning Nigerian novelist, poet and jazz musician Chris Abani will begin an artist's residency at MIT on Sept. 18 with a free reading.

Abani's works include the acclaimed 2004 novel, "Graceland," the story of a teenage Elvis impersonator trying to get out of the slums of Nigeria; and "Kalakuta Republic," a collection of poems inspired by the torture Abani endured in jail.

"Abani's poems are the most naked, harrowing expression of prison life and political torture imaginable," said playwright Harold Pinter of "Kalakuta Republic." "Reading them is like being singed with a red-hot iron."

Abani published his first novel at 16, but the political thriller was deemed subversive by the Nigerian government and landed him in the notorious maximum security prison Kiri Kiri.

By the age of 21 he had been imprisoned and tortured twice for his novels and plays.

Now living in exile in the United States, Abani will give a reading and talk Sept. 18 at 7 p.m. in the Lewis Music Library. He will be on campus from Sept. 18 to 22.

While at MIT he'll meet with faculty and graduate students in arts, humanities and science-related areas, from those taking an advanced poetry class to members of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab.

Abani teaches at the University of California at Riverside and at Antioch University in Los Angeles.

For more information, call x3-2341.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 13, 2006 (download PDF).

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