Habila’s spare but vivid prose takes the reader from the tenements of the working poor to the mansions of oil executives, from the camps of armed militants to peaceful, quasi-monastic communities devoted to the worship of nature gods. But as diverse as Nigeria is, the entire country has one common, overwhelming reality: oil. Oil money fuels the economies of Lagos and Port Harcourt. Oil poisons the rivers where villagers used to live off fishing, forcing many to urban shantytowns. The devastation wrought by oil drives others to become guerrilla fighters, in a futile effort to drive the multinational companies out of Nigeria.
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"The new generation of twenty-first-century African writers have now come of age. Without a doubt Habila is one of the best." —Emmanuel Dongala
In the oil-rich and environmentally devastated Nigerian Delta, the wife of a British oil executive has been kidnapped. Two journalists-a young upstart, Rufus, and a once-great, now disillusioned veteran, Zaq-are sent to find her. In a story rich with atmosphere and taut with suspense, Oil on Water explores the conflict between idealism and cynical disillusionment in a journey full of danger and unintended consequences.
As Rufus and Zaq navigate polluted rivers flanked by exploded and dormant oil wells, in search of "the white woman," they must contend with the brutality of both government soldiers and militants. Assailed by irresolvable versions of the "truth" about the woman's disappearance, dependent on the kindness of strangers of unknowable loyalties, their journalistic objectivity will prove unsustainable, but other values might yet salvage their human dignity.