Tag Archives: Lagos

Impersonating Elvis

“It built up slowly, one leg sort of snapping at the knee, then the pelvic thrust, the arm dangling at his side becoming animated, forefinger and thumb snapping out the time. With a stumble, because the wed sand, until he adjusted to it, sucked at his feet, he launched into the rest of his routine. it was spell binding watching him hover over the sand, movements as fluid as a wave, and it was some time before any of the foreigners moved or spoke.”

It is 1983 in Lagos and Elvis is skipping school to impersonate Elvis to tourist groups at the Molue stops. He sings “Hound Dog” and dances like Elvis, trying to attract a crowd with his Elvis routine. The tourists are curious and watching him perform, but when Elvis waits and asks for a tip, they are unwilling to give him any money. A lady offers chocolate that her son snatches away claiming it is his. Elvis is able to get some money, but barely enough to buy a good meal. In this scene, Elvis is able to dance, something that he wants to pursue as a career. However, it is almost an unrealistic career. Christ Abani sets the scene and shows the poverty and terrible conditions in Lagos. Elvis, about fourteen, is already street performing trying to earn some money for food. The foreigners lack of care for Elvis’s impersonation and routine exemplifies the hardship Elvis goes through and how invisible he is to others.

Abani also uses names as an important part of the novel. Many of the characters’ names describe the opposite of who they really are. Elvis impersonates Elvis, the famous singer, but he is nothing like the actual singer. Elvis doesn’t sing and only knows how to dance a little. Elvis’s stepmother is name Comfort, but she is anything but Comfort. She doesn’t give Elvis or any of her own kids food. Elvis’s father is named Sunday. Generally Sunday is thought as a day to go to church, a fresh start to the week. However, Sunday, Elvis’s father, is a drunk and abusive towards Elvis.