THE FISHERMEN (2015)
Adapted into an award-winning stage play by Gbolahan Obisesan that played in the UK and South Africa between 2018-2019 with runs at London West end's Trafalgar studios, Edinburgh Fringe, HOME theatre in Manchester and Market Theatre in South Africa amongst others.
AWARDS & HONORS
FINALIST - The Man Booker Prize for Fiction*
WINNER - THE FT/OPPENHEIMER emerging voices prize for fiction*
WINNER - 2016 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Debut Literary Work*
WINNER - The Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction*
WINNER - Nebraska book award 2016-fiction category
WINNER - GOG Bookclub Best New Author of the Year
FINALIST - THE GUARDIAN FIRST BOOK AWARD*
FINALIST - The Center for Fiction First Novel Prize*
FINALIST - British book industry award for best debut fiction*
FINALIST - Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards 2016
FINALIST - Best Debut Goodreads Author Award*
Longlisted - The Dylan Thomas first book prize*
FINALIST - Prix grive gauche a' paris (France)
FINALIST - Prix du Roman (France)
FINALIST - Athens prize for literature (greece)
(Audio book version) earphone award winner*
(audio book version) audies awards finalist*
"BEST OF" (2015)
THE UK OBSERVER BEST DEBUT OF THE YEAR
THE ECONOMIST'S BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
A FINANCIAL TIMES BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
A WALL STREET JOURNAL BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
APPLE/IBOOK'S BEST DEBUT OF THE YEAR
A BOOKRIOTS BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK
A MINNESOTA STAR TRIBUNE BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
A REPORTER TIMES BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
AN NPR BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
A LIBRARY JOURNAL'S BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
A CANADIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION BEST BOOK
A NEW ZEALAND LISTENER BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
A RELEVANT MAGAZINE BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
AN 1843 MAGAZINE BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
In the 1990s Nigeria, four brothers from a quiet middle-class family--the oldest 15, and the youngest nine--take advantage of their father's extended absence to skip school and go fishing at a forbidden river. There they encounter Abulu, a vision-seeing madman whose prophecy of violence will follow the boys through their lives, and shake up their family in both devastatingly tragic and yet redemptive ways.
Already deemed a "classic tale of boyhood," The Fishermen is both a coming-of-age novel, and a powerful portrait of familial and brotherly bonds, and what happens when trust--the main chord that binds a family--is broken.
BUY THE BOOK
Barnes & Noble
Read an interview with the author by Michigan Quarterly Review
Watch the novel's feature in a documentary in Germany's WDR TV.
Listen to Sarah L'estrange (ABC Australia)'s interview with the author.
Watch an interview with ABC Australia's Jennifer Bryne
Watch a trailer of the book (German) here.
Listen to NPR's Peter O'Dowd's interview with the author.
Publishers Weekly★ 02/23/2015
"Seamlessly interweaving the everyday and the elemental, Obioma’s strange, imaginative debut—the translation rights to which have been sold in 12 countries—probes the nature of belief and the power of family bonds...Obioma excels at juxtaposing sharp observation, rich images of the natural world, and motifs from biblical and tribal lore; his novel succeeds as a convincing modern narrative and as a majestic reimagining of timeless folklore." Boxed/Starred Review from Publisher's Weekly.
"A lyrical retelling of the story of Cain and Abel... In a first novel full of deceptive simplicity, lyrical language and playful Igbo mythology and humour, he [Obioma] uses the madman’s apocalyptic vision for the family as a way of conjuring up Nigeria’s senseless body politic...This is an impressive and beautifully imagined work." The Economist (US & UK).
‘It is from a simple, almost mythological conceit that Chigozie Obioma’s debut novel grows, gaining complexity and power as it rises to its heartbreaking climax… grounded in the Aristotelian concept of tragedy… it is the detailed, painstakingly built images and descriptions that give the novel its unique power’ Helon Habila, Guardian.
"a gut-wrenching debut" Oprah Magazine.
"Obioma, the heir to Chinua Achebe, is a good writer whose work has a deeply felt authenticity, combined with old-fashioned storytelling" --Robert McCRum, The Observer.
"This is about as perfect as a debut could be, from an author not yet 30." The Straitstimes.
"[a] confident debut novel...the guileless Ben is a well-chosen conduit for Obioma's frank and lyrical prose." The New Yorker.
"An entrancing modern-day legend...Mr. Obioma’s long-limbed and elegant writing is shot through with strikingly elevated phrasings...its power is unmistakable." Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal.
"elegantly near-mythic debut novel... VERDICT Made vivid by the well-rendered specifics, Obioma’s quietly unfolding story of family tragedy gathers strength as its cycle of violence spins faster and faster. All fiction readers will enjoy."--Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal Starred★ Review ★ 03/15/201(US).
"A passionate, jostling and flamboyant piece of work" Daily Telegraph
"Obioma, the heir to Chinua Achebe, is a good writer whose work has a deeply felt authenticity, combined with old-fashioned storytelling." Robert McCrum, The Guardian.
"If you haven’t read “The Fishermen” I think you have left something very important undone because this piece of fiction could change your perception of life. The human imagination needs a story like this to pull all strings of influence, relevance and history."--Evans Ufeli, ConnectNigeria (Nigeria)
“The bare emotion of the story makes it hard reading at times, the edge of the page quivered in my white-knuckled grip, but it’s also finely crafted, technically precise and deftly structured. I loved it." Claire Cameron, The Millions.
"Startling...auspicious...incredibly moving...echoes of past masters." Mariella Frostrup, BBC Open Book.
"Eine Geschichte, die von uns allen erzählt." ("A story told by all of us...a fascinating debut"). NDR TV/Radio review. (Germany)
"[...] Spooky, powerful, an artfully executed existentialism." Felix Stephan Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany) [See exhaustive list of German reviews here]
"A striking, controlled and masterfully taut debut… The tale has a timeless quality that renders it almost allegorical and it is the more powerful for it." Carl Wilkinson, Financial Times (US & UK).
“ With this, his debut novel, he’s created a powerful, evocative piece of work that marks him out as an international writer to watch.' Book of the Month' review from Curious Animal Magazine (UK)
"The most impressive feature of The Fishermen is that, while it is ostensibly a naturalist novel, it is suffused with an air of legend and the supernatural.... ingenious, subtle, ambitious and intriguing" Stuart Kelly, Times Literary Supplement.
"Obioma writes with gorgeous restraint reminiscent of the intricate prose in a Tolstoy novella...It just doesn't get better than this. Get used to the name: Obioma is here to stay."--Alexandra Fuller, author of Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness.
'Nowhere is the mythic quality of The Fishermen felt more than in its... vivid images, often drawn from the natural world, through which its narrator recalls his childhood' --Lorien Kite, Financial Times
“An excellent debut...Chigozie Obioma writes with sophistication and inventiveness; he's obviously deeply in love with the English language, and it shows. This is a dark and beautiful book by a writer with seemingly endless promise. Michael Shaub, NPR.
“This book is astonishing…The writing is perfectly tuned, lyrical in places and bracing in others. The characters’ shifting multilingualism (Igbo, Yoruba, English) plays an intriguing role. The narrative structure has the past float to the surface of the present, then recede, then reappear. And the whole thing is much, much more than the sum of these parts.” Derek Attig, BookRiot (US).
“A lively, energetic debut novel … the talented Obioma exhibits a richly nuanced understanding of culture and character. A powerful, haunting tale of grief, healing, and sibling loyalty.” Kirkus Review (US).
"You will be haunted by this novel. Not only is the plight of the brothers compelling, but Chigozie Obioma's prose is exquisitely beautiful...Commentators are comparing this book to The Kite Runner for good reason. The Fishermen is shocking and moving--and as compelling as this comparison would suggest. Chigozie Obioma is a major talent, and I predict that this will be one of the books of the year. Lauren Cook, Goodreading magazine (Aus).
"The most frustrating thing about "The Fishermen" is that the author has no other books for the reader to devour once the final page is reached. " Trine Tsouderou, The Chicago Tribune.
"Darkly mythic...a kind of African Cormac McCarthy, committed to a stark vision of life in which our pretensions to civilization are forever held up and exposed as skin deep: that what really runs us is deeper down, in the blood."―USA Today.
"A classic... [Obioma's] language flares and gleams poetically and his grip on narrative is unfaltering" Sydney Morning Herald
"The brothers' family saga is set against the background of a tumultuous and politically charged 1990s Nigeria, which, combined with Obioma's stunning prose and twisting narrative style, succeeds in grounding the tale in the reality of history and emotion while exploring ideas of fate and destiny that feel mythical in their scope. The Fishermen is a story with intent and purpose, slim but powerful, with not a word out of place--and one not to be missed. Kerry McHuge, Starred Review on ShelfAwareness.
“The Fishermen,” Nigerian author Chigozie Obioma’s debut novel, is a searing, incandescent exploration of the repercussions that come from acting on such a belief…Obioma so wonderfully casts the events that they come to feel natural, even inevitable.” The Harvard Crimson.
"Obioma paints an astonishingly vivid picture of life in a Nigerian town in the 1990s...And the book is beautifully written. Obioma's observation skills are second to none and some of his images are superb...read it slowly, savour the writing, enjoy’." Bookbag (UK)
"Set in a small Nigerian town in the mid-Nineties, The Fishermen’s theme is one of family conflict, And the transformation of 15-year-old Ikenna after a seer predicts he will be killed at the hands of one of his brothers. A debut that is packed with power and tragedy." ShortlistMagazine 26th Feb issue (UK).
"An incredibly moving story of four brothers growing up in 90's Nigeria. Eleanor Catton called it "awesome", we say what she said. Marie Claire Magazine.
"An exciting new voice from Nigeria causing justifiable buzz, Obioma harnesses the power of a terrible, almost Biblical fatalism in the story of two brothers who shatter their modest family life." -Caroline Baum, Booktopia (Aus).
"Chigozie Obioma's gift and the authenticity of his voice are immediately apparent...One finds oneself in full suspension of disbelief that old legends and myths persist in perpetual reincarnation in present-day lives so that every character, scenes, and imagery jump off the page, firmly to lodge in the reader's mind." Irini Spanidou, author of Before.
"Remarkable...Obioma brings terrific authorial dexterity to the family’s story and its small place in Nigeria, and evokes a worldview which brings with it a terrible tragedy. This is the best novel I have read so far this year, and that, I can assure you, is saying plenty." Katherine A. Powers BarnesandNoble reviews
The Fishermen, Chigozie Obioma’s debut novel, is an incredibly assured piece of writing. It is a novel of modern Nigeria still under the thrall of superstition, and is marked by two qualities: the consistent fineness of its prose and its deft handling of narratorial perspective. Obioma’s writing is constantly sensitive to character and detail. A mother’s watchfulness is evoked perfectly: “She owned copies of our minds in the pockets of her own mind.” A boy’s fall down a well is remembered as “tearing his eardrums apart like an antique veil”. Adam Rivett, The Australian.
'Grips readers from the very first chapter. Both an allegory for the modern-day African nation and a Cain-and-Abel tale of brothers perhaps fated to destroy one another, The Fishermen serves as an engrossing escape' Travel & Leisure.
"An evocative fable-like tale."―The Week
"A mighty fry-up of pop culture, fable and verbal invention"―New Statesman
"Lyrical, profound and surprising first novel... a bold and often beautiful first work from a talented writer, filled to the brim with humanity and promise." ―The Con.
"Arresting.... Obioma brings terrific authorial dexterity to the family's story and its small place in Nigeria, and evokes a worldview which brings with it a terrible tragedy. This is the best novel I have read so far this year, and that, I can assure you, is saying plenty."―Christian Science Monitor
"[A] deeply imaginative, stirring debut novel.... For those interested in a gripping, at times nail-biting, read, give this new author a try."―Coastal Living
"A stranger’s nefarious prophecy sets in motion this gorgeously crafted debut about ’90s Nigeria that unfolds like a Greek myth." ―Departures Magazine.
"Drawing upon the rich history of Nigerian storytelling, this novel is a myth of sorts, reminding the reader of tales of the Greek gods or the biblical story of Cain and Abel...Obioma combines a stark, mythic narrative with lavishly descriptive writing that depicts not only the Agwus’ life in their town, but also the rapidly modernizing culture of Nigeria in the 1990s." ―Relevant Magazine.
"Obioma has mastered that tension essential to tragedy: In hindsight, the events seem inevitable, and yet you can’t help wondering if things could have turned out differently. Which is to say Obioma is a very good writer."―The Globe and Mail.
"Obioma's beautiful, quasi-biblical allegory-like debut... is set to be one of the novels of the year" Eileen Battersby, Irish Times
" An outstanding addition to African literature." Readings Australia.
"Unforgettable....there is something almost mystical about Obioma’s writing as well as his story, and it makes this book nearly impossible to put down." Vol 1 Brooklyn.
"Obioma’s subtly arranged details paint a vivid picture of the times." MaCleans.
"The Fishermen is a strikingly accomplished debut, hailing Chigozie Obioma as a bold new voice in Nigerian fiction. It comes as no surprise it’s made this year’s Man Booker Dozen, and I for one would be surprised and disappointed if it doesn’t make the shortlist next month." Lucy Scholes, The Independent UK
'A debut that is packed with power and tragedy' Shortlist
"[The Fishermen] is an enjoyable read by Chigozie Obioma, five-star writing. ‘The Fisherman’ grips you so hard like an anvil that after you are done reading you don’t want to let go of the book. It makes you mad after reading this book that this is his first and only book, no more to read." Agbonmire Ifeh, OlisaTV (NIG)
"So vividly and powerfully told I found myself stopping every few pages to catch my breath." Helon Habila, Poets & Writers.
'This original, beautiful novel sets [Obioma] up as one of this generation's great voices in African literature' Country Life
"The Fishermen is the kind of book that sinks its into your imagination and unearths powerful emotions like sorrow, dread and wonder. Nigerian-born author Chigozie Obioma, a literature and creative writing professor in the US, is a magical storyteller...We were completely absorbed by the story of nine-year-old Benjamin and his three older brothers―and the ominous prophecy that threatens to tear them apart.―Apple/ ibooks, Discover New Author Campaign.
"This is an accomplished first work, from a new and distinctive voice."--Book Oxygen
"A haunting debut...With lyrical language and Biblical imagery, Obioma uses the experiences of one family to weave a story of tragedy and redemption that holds universally applicable truths while also providing specific parallels for his home country of Nigeria. Englewood Review of Books.
"Astonishing first novel...a remarkable, mythic book." Alice Walker, Author of The Color Purple.
"In his exploration of the mysterious and the murderous, of the terrors that can take hold of the human mind, of the colors of life in Africa, with its vibrant fabrics and its trees laden with fruit, and most of all in his ability to create dramatic tension in this most human of African stories, Chigozie Obioma truly is the heir to Chinua Achebe." Fiammetta Rocco, The New York Times.
"Awesome in the true sense of the word...Few novels deserve to be called 'mythic,' but Chigozie Obioma's THE FISHERMEN is certainly one of them. A truly magnificent debut."--Eleanor Catton, author of The Luminaries (Man Booker Prize)
"African Kite Runner"--Goodreading Magazine, BBC World Bookclub...
THE FISHERMEN is being translated into 27 languages, and in 31 countries. Find below a list of international editions. Please click on the links (where available) for various publishers by countries to read about the editions. Links to reviews or purchase options are available on various publisher's pages.
ARABIC | Hamad Bin Khalifa University Press (Forthcoming)
CATALAN | "El Pescadores" published by Quaderns Crema (2016)
CHINESE (Complex) | Locus Publishing (Forthcoming)
CHINESE (Simplified) | Booky (Forthcoming)
CROATIAN | Hena-Com (Forthcoming)
DANISH | Vi Var Fiskere by Forlaget Klim (2016)
DUTCH: Der verboden Rivier publsihed by De Geus (2015)
FINNISH | Atena Kustannus (Forthcoming)
FRENCH | Le Pescheurs published by Éditions de l’Olivier(2016)
GERMAN | Der Dunkle Fluss published by Aufbau (2015)
GREEK | Οι ψαράδες published by Metaichmio (2016)
HEBREW | Modan (Forthcoming)
ITALIAN | I Pescatori published by Bompiani (2016)
JAPANESE | Hayakawa (Forthcoming)
KOREAN | Cresma (Forthcoming)
MARATHI | Mehta Publishing House
NORWEGIAN | Font Forlag (Forthcoming)
POLISH | "Rybacy" published by Wydawnictwo Literackie (2016)
PORTUGUESE (Brazil) | Os Pescadores published by Globo (2016)
RUSSIAN | AST Publishing (F0rthcoming)
SERBIAN | Laguna (Forthcoming)
SPANISH |"Los Pescadores" published by Siruela (2016)
SWEDISH | Fiskamananen by Ordfront (2016)
TURKISH | Pegasus (Forthcoming)
UKRAINIAN| Hemiro Limited (Forthcoming)