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Mister Johnson

Willing, warm-hearted and thoroughly incompetent, Mr Johnson, a minor government clerk on probation at the outpost of Fada, Nigeria, entertains poetic notions of grandeur and glory as he bumbles his way free-spiritedly through the trials and tribulations of life.

He may not spell accurately, but he writes a beautiful hand. He may not file very well, but he replaces expertise with enthusiasm. Indeed, he may drive his employers wild with exasperation, but there is something about having Johnson around the place: his ingenuousness is so touching, his optimism so infectious. To the core he is an official of the British Colonial Service.

He knows he has a duty to be well-turned out in the European manner, that his wife must wear English gowns whether she likes it or not, and that they are obliged as a couple to entertain lavishly on every conceivable occasion. Every tradesman in town knows how seriously Johnson takes these duties; every tradesman in town has a ledger full of his debts. Undaunted by these numerous debts, Johnson pays a small fortune to marry the voluptuous village girl, Bamu. But while he tenderly dreams of transforming her into a civilized lady – as befitting a man of his wisdom and taste – the self-possessed beauty in question has other ideas…


“A wonderfully evocative portrait of a bygone colonial life... Mr Johnson, in short is a great literary creation; he can safely take his place beside any of the characters world literature has presented us with: from Falstaff to Zeno, from Candide to Humbert Humbert.”

William Boyd

“A beautifully written, absorbing story which I trust will serve to bring many new readers to this magnificent novelist.”

Sunday Times

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