The Extinction of Menai


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“poignant, thrilling, and funny novel… Nwokolo manages to brilliantly distill his branching plot into a singular portrayal of a threatened culture.”…
-Starred Publishers Weekly PW Fiction Review  

The Extinction of Menai

About the Book: At the height of their illustrious civilisation they ruled Ancient Egypt, but this is the 21st century and the Menai are on their last legs. With their global population in the hundreds, they are reduced to their Niger delta homeland of Kreektown. There, their destiny is sealed by a rogue drug trial by a multinational, with genocidal consequences for the community.

In a gripping narrative that pits governments and multinationals against a minor ethnic nation, Mata Nimito leads a choir of voices from the living and the dead to sing an indelible epic for the times. Other Principal characters include ‘excommunicated’ Menai daughter, Sheesti Kroma, identical male twins, Zanda Atturk and Humphrey Chow, and the infamous vigilante, Badu. As their clock runs down, the imperative of history drives the last of the Menai from their creeks, across desert and continent, just a step ahead of their Apocalypse.

The themes explored in the novel include language and culture loss (a quarter of the world’s 7000 languages will die in a century) and power relations (between multinationals, communities, and governments).

About the Author: Chuma Nwokolo was born in Jos, in 1963. He attended the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and the NIgerian Law School. He was called to the bar in 1984 and was managing partner of the C&G Chambers in Lagos. He was writer-in-residence at The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.  He cofounded the literary magazine African Writing. His first novels, The Extortionist (1983) and Dangerous Inheritance (1988), were published in the Macmillan Pacesetter Series. Other books include, African Tales at Jailpoint (1999), One More Tale for the Road (2003), and Diaries of a Dead African (2003). His Short Story anthologies include The Ghost of Sani Abacha (2012), and How to Spell Naija in 100 Short Stories Volumes 1 (2013), and 2 (2016). He has published two poetry collections, Memories of Stone (2006) and The Final Testament of a Minor God (2014). His stories have appeared in the London Review of Books, La Internazionale, AGNI, MTLS, Arzenal, and Sentinel, among other places. He is the convener of the Bribecode good governance campaign (

Edition/PublisherCountriesDate of Release
Horn of Africa/Pointe InvisibleEthiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Somaliland, Djibouti28th July, 2017
Ghana/WPG PublishingGhana20th October, 2017
Nigeria/GwandustanNigeria, Other African Countries7th November, 2017
Ohio Publishers/ Swallow PressRest of the World 5th February, 2018

2 thoughts on “The Extinction of Menai”

  1. Twins separated at birth discover their true identities and a spiritual leader pursues the ancestral homeland of his “dying nation” in this poignant, thrilling, and funny novel from Nwokolo (Diaries of a Dead African). Brothers Humphrey, a London writer, and Zanda, a journalist in Abuja, Nigeria, are Menai, descendants of a Nigerian tribe whose members were, in 1990, subjected by a pharmaceutical company to drug tests that killed thousands. By 2005, only a few dozen Menai remain, and their elderly shaman Mata sets out on a quest to find and be buried in their ancestral Saharan homeland. Meanwhile, a succession of hallucinations and blackouts reveal to both Humphrey and Zanda that they have been living double lives, unbeknownst even to themselves: Zanda has been operating as the anticorruption extremist Badu, while Humphrey lived as Izak for eight years on the Ivory Coast. Badu’s co-conspirators smuggle him to Cameroon; and Humphrey heads to Africa to rediscover his forgotten life. But Izak is wanted by the police, too, forcing Humphrey to flee to Lagos, only to be mistaken for his brother and arrested. Zanda is the only one who can clear his name, but he has to return to Nigeria first. The madcap twists and turns that ensue provide a joyful counterpoint to Mata’s somber odyssey, and Nwokolo manages to brilliantly distill his branching plot into a singular portrayal of a threatened culture. (Mar.)

  2. This great complex novel is full of invention and surprises. The main story – the bizarre dying out of a small fictional Menai tribe in Nigeria’s delta – is unusual enough. But even more unique is its format, as a compendium of lively narratives from a swathe of personalities, each telling their differently voiced stories from Nigeria, Abidjan and UK – some of which concern the Menai, others hardly at all. Some are comic (a writer hack Chinese-adopted twin of Nigeria’s most wanted criminal), others academic (like the book itself), others racy (like the corrupt state governor about to secede). As for the fast dwindling Menai themselves – about which nothing is done – their fate is told by a variety of competing tribal voices steeped in their traditions for which the author has coined a fair bit of Menai language. The general writing is brilliant, for example when an old door crashed to the ground ‘a sigh of dust rose regretfully’. The dialogue is sharp: one stunning stroke is how houseboy Qudus guarantees his Japanese master to give him a lifetime financial leg up. But it is also opaque, frequently quoting hidden contexts. This obscure style affects much of the book making it quite mysterious, not least because it is not a forward story but keeps dodging back and forth between 1980 and 2005 (the Menai’s last years). Yet throughout its innumerable little chapters I never saw a single typo, a rare thing even for today. The author remains in short story mode here, using many of them to create a dense web of a history which while very long, also feels like it happened all at once

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