Book Review: The Passport of Mallam Ilia

I picked up this short novella – roughly 80 pages – intrigued by its title and the fact that the author was highlighted by the NYT Book Review last year (though another work). I thought it was very fitted that the book was passport-sized and a vintage edition.

The Passport of Mallam Ilia (Nigeria, 1960) is the story of a respectable man from North Nigeria in the early 1900s, as he chases a terrible villain around the Globe, a country-man who killed his wife.

I would describe this work of historical fiction as testosterone-filled, Mission-Impossible-like, colonialism-apologist sexist work of fiction. Women are sexual objects to win as prizes and then discard. I found the plot awfully predictable and in general, find action scenes boring. The chase took the entire story. I also found it particular that the British colonizers were the good guys, and a devout Muslim would join them to kill fellow Nigerians, no matter how despotic their rules were. But same thing happened in Mexico when the Spanish arrived so… maybe that is the way it goes. But I prefer Achebe, where the white settlers are not saviors.

Nevertheless, he has other works that look interesting, so I don’t completely rule out reading him again in the future. Rating: For action thriller junkies only

Author: Carla Hafez

Reader of mostly literary fiction and own-voices fiction. Latina. Feminist. Amateur reviewer. Opinionated. Unapologetically progressive. Mom. Wife. Believer.

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