In The Chibok Girls (2016), Helon Habila recalled an encounter with a Nigerian soldier at a military checkpoint just outside Chibok, in the north of the country. He presented his Virginia driving licence to the soldier, who laughingly greeted him as ‘Professor Americana’ before waving him through. Habila has made his name with novels steeped in the contemporary life of Nigeria, but in The Chibok Girls, a book-length report on the abduction by Boko Haram of 276 schoolgirls from the town in April 2014, one could sense him beginning to feel like a stranger in his own land.
In Travellers, his fourth novel, nobody feels at home. A Nigerian doctoral student at an American university has somewhat reluctantly accompanied his wife to Berlin – where she has begun a prestigious arts fellowship – with half a hope of reigniting their doomed marriage. Encountering an ‘unbridgeable gap’ between himself