African Titanics by Abu Bakr Khaal

African Titanics by Abu Bakr Khaal

Eritrean fiction

Original title –  تيتانيكات أفريقية

Translator – Charis Bredin

Source – personnel copy

I have reviewed a few books from the small publisher Darf over the last few years. I picked up this recently as it was a book from a country I haven’t read from, but also a story that appeals as it is  the tale of many people trying to seek a new life in Europe. Abu Bakr Khaal followed the route described in the book and himself spent many years in Libya and the in a refugee camp in Tunisia.Before living in Denmark.

I do wonder how many nicknames. I’ll bear throughout my life. In Khartoum I was known as Awacs(The Airbourne warning and Control System) because I’d refuse to go to bed at night til I’d garnered evryy last useful scrap of information from the world of immigrant smuggling, by land, sea and air. From mt lodgings in Khartoum I kept track of the number of Titanics that left North Africa’s shores bound for Europe evry Summer.I was always informed of the most recent departures and whether or not the boats had reached dry land.

The Gamble they all take using these make shift crafts to reach their dreams in Africa.

This book mix the present with the past as we follow one young man’s journey from his home in Eritretooo Libyia and then Europe. Abdrar has been hearing tales of life in Europe and we get to follow his journey from his home first to Sudan Khartoum after he is arrested at home .In Khartoum, there are many smugglers there to  take people on  their journey north through the mainland of Africa.  We see how they charge people different amounts for here they come from. All the time there is a thread of folk tales and previous migrants stories underlying the tale. Till they arrive in Libya and take what they call those African Titanics, those makeshift and often overcrowd former fishing boats and other put together ships that the refugees sail on. The latter part of the book is like a collective tale of these people a fellow traveller Malouk who you may sense might even be a ghost tells tales and then is lost at sea, but then is seen again in the Med by other people on one of the African Titanics!

To all the pounding hearts

In feverish boats

I will cut

Through these paths

with my own liberated heart

And tell my soul

To shout of your silenced deaths

And fill

Palms of dust with morning dew

And song

I Choose the end lines as they are so powerful a song sung by the ghost Malouk on the Med.

This is a short but hard-hitting Novella that is the voice of many those lost and the trail to Europe that Abdar and many others through the years have followed to Libya to Tunisia and then frequently to drown in the Med. The style of this story reminded me of the early books by Ben Okri that mix so well African folktales, Magic realism and realism into a story that like the smoke of the refugee’s fires at night drifts in the air and becomes a collective voice for the many. It also highlights the horrors faced and the Exploitation of those seeking a new and better life away from their horrors of their homelands. May I also point out that Darf is running a fundraiser for the second part of The Confines of \shadow by Alessandro Spina I reviewed the first part a couple of years ago.

This is a review of a fiction novel and no person in the text is based on a real character or organisation.

 

 

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Land of my fathers by Vamba Sherif

Land of my fathers by Vamba Sherif

Liberian fiction

Original title – Het land van de vaders

Translated – by the writer himself from his dutch book

Source – review copy

I always get a tingle when a new country is put on the list of countries  I have read books from, not so much in a planespotter way of ticking of places for me it is discovering new voices and placing them in the context of where the writer is from and their history Vamba Sherif is the best known writer from Liberia , he studied in kuwait and then traveled to Syria whilst the first Gulf war was happening. Finally settling in Netherlands where he studied Law .He published this his first book in 1999.He as since written a number of books .

One morning , on a wet autumn, i caught sight of the ship in the distance and hurried towards it. The salty sea aire bore excited voices towards me, and it was not long before I became part of the bustle,Shouldering my luggage consitsting of clothes, some valuable books and expedition materials.I climbed on board.The ship was crowded with men and women.There were no children

I was reminded of the lines of a pogues song here “on a coffin ship I came here”

This is one of those stories you are thankful there is publishers out there finding writers like Vamba Sherif . This story is  a tale of a reverse journey at a time when people well slaves in a way were going from Africa to the Americas. Later on in this time some freed slaves went back and claimed a part of Africa. Liberia (land of the free ) is the oldest republic in Africa. This is the tale of one freed slave he got free after falling for Charlotte another freed slave whom he fell for  his wife fulfilling a promise after being freed of return home to Liberia . Edward Richard a freed slave and preacher is returning with his wife to Liberia, not knowing the full picture in a way and he is shocked when he arrives and her that many of the tribes aren’t friendly on the ex-slaves returning home and even worse than that have no god in their life. He and Charlotte settle in the town but over time he is compelled to preacher to the tribes and discovers a wonderful man on the way there in the later part we follow the descendents of these two men that met in the wilds of Africa.

The townspeopkle came to bid us farewell, a large crowd which spread across the road like ants. It was a solemn affair.The wind whistled a mournful rune as though it were sweeping across a deserted place.Turning to look at the town, I wondered whether i would ever see its mountains and its many paths again , its treesunder which elders rested at midday.At the main junction where the road forked into four paths that formed the main thoroughfares, i saw the blind Tellewoyan being led by a relative.

Is Richard blind in his journey heading into the tribal lands to preach to the locals /

This is a journey many freed slaves made in the day but like many dream journeys it isn’t as it seems like many of my forebears in Ireland that made the journey from Ireland to the land of free only to find themselves in an underclass Richards journey is one that initially they look forward to till they discover the locals have many religions and many gods. A modern tale in a way of a journey to a place of safety that isn’t safety Vamba wrote this story himself about his homeland in a refugee camp trying to discover about his homeland. We all need place and that is what is seen here through the eyes of the people richard Halay the native he meets show the need for place but also the place religion plays in Peoples lives. I for one learnt more about Vamba homeland like many males of my generation we knew this as the home of the George Weah that mercurial player of PSG and Milan back in the day . So if you want to discover a bit about the early days of this country this is the novel to read .

 

A grain of wheat by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

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A grain of wheat by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

Kenyan fiction

Source – Personnel copy

Exodus: Movement of Jah people! Oh-oh-oh, yea-eah!
…….
Men and people will fight ya down (Tell me why!)
When ya see Jah light. (Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!)
Let me tell you if you’re not wrong; (Then, why?)
Everything is all right.
So we gonna walk – all right! – through de roads of creation:
We the generation (Tell me why!)
(Trod through great tribulation) trod through great tribulation.

Exodus, all right! Movement of Jah people!
Oh, yeah! O-oo, yeah! All right!
Exodus: Movement of Jah people! Oh, yeah!

I choose Exdous a Marley sung about freedom this lyric is influenced by a biblical text as is the title of the book .

 

I add a second from the list of names in the nobel Betting for this years Lit prize the Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o  has been high on the betting the last few years .He studied in Both Kenya , Uganda and Leeds in the uk,which is where he wrote this book in 1967.He is an active campaigner for maintaining African languages and has written a number of books in his own Gikuyu language .

Mugo felt nervous .He was lying on his back and looking at the roof .Sooty locks hung from the fern and grass thatch and all pointed at his heart .A clear drop of water was delicately suspended above .The drop fattened and grew dirtier as it absorbed grains of soot ,Then started drawing towards him.He tried to shut his eyes.The would not close .

The opening sets the scene so well .

A grain of wheat is set in the time just before,during and after the independence of Kenya . WE see the story of how Kenya gained independence  in a series of flashback stories as we are in the present with Mugo ,a lonely man in his village as the prepared to celebrate Independence day .Add to this a revenge for a traitor that is to be dealt with on this day or as it is called by the villagers Uhuru day (freedom day ) . Mugo sold people out to the brits but he wasn’t the only one Karanja did as well where as others in the village fought with the rebels and killed a brutal police man  and were capture and sent to prison whilst the wives were left behind with men like Karanja need I say more,add to this a Brit ex pat that is in one man all that was wrong with Brits in Africa John Thomson is that man .All this in one small african village the whole country in a group of a few men each showing a side of the conflict and how it effect each one of them .

Kenya Regained her Uhuru from the British on 12 December 1963 .A minute before midnight , lights were put out at Nairobi stadium so that people from all over the country and the world who gathered there for the midnight ceremony were swallowed by darkness .In the dark ,the Union Jack was quickly lowered .When next the lights came o the new Kenya flag was flying and fluttering and waving,in the air .The police band played the new National Anthem

Near the end we see the Freedom regained for Kenya .

What we see here is one of the books that is considered the main books in the cannon of African fiction a book that breaks away in style somewhat of earlier novels .The feel is of using the oral tradition in the village in the way the story of them all getting to Uhuru are woven into a complex novel  that shows how Britain was in Africa , how Kenya found freedom  is a blueprint for a number of other countries that found freedom afterwards  .This book is still as powerful as when it was written .I have had him as nobel winner for a few years it just the look of the draw who will win next week .

Have you read Thiong’o ?

Our Musseque by Jose Luandino Viera

Our Musseque by Jose Luandino

Angolan fiction

original title – Nosso musseque

Translator – Robin Patterson

It’s in a person, it’s in a person
I’m warning you, I’m warning you
It’s the truth

Africa land for preachers gold
Land for everybody young and old
The place that holds for some bright future,
But for others the future tend to torture
Ma’ Africa.

What went wrong with your brains?
You kill each other you destroy human dignity
People of Africa lets stand together
And make it the land of hope!

I want to tell everybody about myself.

Todays lyric is Ma africa from the one giant leap album ( a collection of singers and songs from around the world )

I often think there isn’t enough fiction of Lusophile origin from Africa , so every time one cross my path it is a welcomed with open arms by me . Jose Luandino Viera is a writer who grew up in Luanda in Angola , the setting of the book in the 1940’s .He grew to be a political activist who had a trail in 1959 that start the uprising in his country .He spent a lot of time after that in prison until the collapse of the Salazar regime .He wrote this book in the 60’s whilst in prison although it didn’t see the light of day until 2003 .

And so the nickname was born . When people who lived further away from the Musseque heard the story , they chuckled to themselves , made fun of it and said our group of boys had even stooped to messing around with goats ,From then on they started referring to our dead companion as Xoxombo the goat shagger .

The book opens with talking of getting a nickname and how everyone had a nickname in the Musseque .

This is the story of a Musseque , a township , a shanty town .This is a portrait of te shanty town of Luanda told through the eyes of our child narrator .A world of people with nicknames , a close-knit but rough community of prostitutes labourers and those that provide for them .A tough life for Zeca , Buenu and Xoxombo are a group of boys growing on these streets , watching life on the tough side of the streets as they find girls and fighting .But at the same time there is rumblings in the background of their world that are pieced in glimpses .The book is a collection of glimpses into this world and the lives around it vibrant , colourful but most of all a world on the cusp of something that in the end took more than forty years to get there .

As evening slowly fell , children made their way back home , some of them heading up to Ingombota , others going down towards Mutamaba .They were laughing and teasing ,showing off their toys .ZEca and Xoxombo walked with their arms around each other , not speaking to anyone .They walked very slowly through the alleyways and up the sandy tracks , Xoxombo crying sometimes and Zeca heaping insults on the man in the white suit , the teachers ,the school kids , everyone , nobody escaped his fury

The boys heading through the night one the way home angry at the world but friends together .

I read this book last december then as is the case with me I put it to one side so sad ,I am at times a bad reviewer as this is one that had stuck with me .Not so much for the characters in the book The narrator and his friends are well drawn child characters . For me what last is the sense of place the vibrant shanty town the place that was their home but also a place that at the time was dangerous for them , but they didn’t see that we do as the reader to them this is their everyday life .I feel Viera who wrote this whilst in prison is looking back with fond memories of his youth seeing the tough side of his life but also the comrades friends and characters he grew up with .this book is considered an important book in the cannon of fiction from Angola as Viera is one of the most decorated writers and acknowledge .I’m so pleased Dedalus took a chance and published this book as it is a gem .

Have you read any Lusophile fiction from Africa  ?

From Algeria to Cape town Further journeys through Africa

African fiction

From Algeria where I plan to read Yasmina Khadra who I have three books on my shelves including the two recent Gallic book editions The african equation and the dictators last night .Two great books of Nigerian fiction Chinua Achebe things fall apart (a reread ) and second class citizen by Buchi Emecheta together with the short story collection Under african skies .Then more classics A grain of wheat by Ngugi , The gab boys by  Cameron Duodu , The long claws of fate by uche Bialonwu and lastly from Senegal Birago Diop with the tales of Amadou Koumba .Then cutting edge writng from Eben Venter from South Africa wolf ,wolf Ghana’s Ayesha Harruna Attah Saturday’s Shadows , her second novel and from Sierra Leone Pede Hollist These are some choice of books from Africa I hope to add in between now and the end of the year after the last few days of blogging about this years books from Africa I have read , I was reminded how much I haven’t read and how much I need to know to build a picture of what is lit from Ghana , Nigeria , South Africa not just Africa as a whole we don’t talk about European fiction but of French , German and so on canon’s .

the confines of the shadow

First up later today is this which I have had for a few month from the publisher Darf publishing Alessandro Spina epic this is the first of three volumes told the history of Bengazi in the 20th century .What most appealed to me is the quote by Claudio Magris on the front an Italian writer whose book I read last year was just perfect so I expect a book he would like I would like as well .

What books from Africa have you enjoyed ?

This house is not for sale by E C Osondu

this house is not for sale

 

This house is not for sale by E C Osondu

Nigerian fiction

Source – review copy

Tell ’em that the house is not for sale
We’re still livin’ here, how come nobody can tell
They’re takin’ all the furniture, movin’ our things
Come on little honey, put your head on my knee
Tell ’em that the house is not for sale
And calm down, calm down, calm down
Calm down, calm down, calm down

Do you remember when we even bought this thing?
I danced you across the wooden floor and you signed the lease
What happened in the car that night?
What happened in the car that night?
Tell ’em that the house is not for sale
And calm down, calm down, calm down
Calm down, calm down, calm down
Calm down

I couldn’t miss the chance that one of my favourite singers had written a song with the same title as this book so This house is not for sale by Ryan Adams

So another trip to africa and this time a rising star of Nigerian fiction E C Osondu , has already won the Caine prize for african writing in 2009  for his story waiting here it is online .He has an MFA from Syracuse university , he currently teaches in Rhode Island in the US .This is his second book following Voice of America that came out in 2011 .That was a short story collection so this is his debut novel .

When we asked Grandpa how the house we called the family house came into existence , this is the story he told us .

A long , long time ago , before anybody alive today was born , a brave ancestor of ours who was a respected and feared Juju man woke up one day and told his family , friend and neighbours that he had a dream ,In the dream he saw a crown being placed on his head .He interpreted this dream as signifying that he was going to be crowned a king soon .

I loved the story of how the house became the house so to speak .

This house is not for sale is a story of a house and the man who managed to get the house many years before and has been the driving force of the house .The house in Lagos is seen through the eyes of those who have lived in the house over the years .Grandpa life and those living there is recounted through the eyes of his grandson .From Grandpa story of how he got the house of the King .Through thieves entering the house .A cousin Ibe that makes money in many ways not all that honest that bring life to the house  .Then there is husbands playing away , murder and many other things going on inside the walls of “The Family house “.What we see is a vibrant house through our young narrator eyes .

The british love tea and will drink tea when they are happy and drink tea when they are sad .They’ll drink tea when they are hungry and when they are full .They love their cats and their dogs and all their pets ,They have a society for the protection of animals and none for the protection of their fellow humans .

I highlighted this as it made me laugh ,well just to note this Brit hates tea but does love his dogs .

I said E C Osondu first book was a collection of short stories , I feel he loves this form as the second book is a novel but one of those loose novels that seem very much the fashion these days (I say this knowing that the great american novel  winesburg Ohio is a cycle of stories ) .This is also the fourth book I can remember that has used a house as a framing device for the book .The nearest to this of the ones I have read is The yacobian building .But this book also has a great child narrator as the darkness of some of the events in the house are told in that childlike way of ttwelling things straight but not tainted by expereince or judgement .What comes accross is a vibrant house run by a sly old man who has managed to keep this huge house despite the city around it changing but has also provide a roof over the head of a number of people that have washed up at the door of  Grandpa’s house over the years .

The lights of Point-Noire by Alain Mabanckou

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The lights of Pointe-Noire by Alain Mabanckou

Congolese memoir

Original title – Lumieres de Pointe-Noire

Translator – Helen Stevenson

Source review copy

 

“Back To The Old House”

I would rather not go
back to the old house
I would rather not go
back to the old house
there’s too many
bad memories
too many memories

When you cycled by
here began all my dreams
the saddest thing I’ve ever seen
and you never knew
how much I really liked you
because I never even told you
oh, but I meant to

I choose “The smiths ” as back to the old house is about return to your youth as well .

Well the second stop ion a few days I am spending on the blog in Africa .I am now in Congo , with one of my favourite writers Alain Mabanckou has featured on the blog three times before with his fiction with the books Black Bazaar ,Memoirs of a porcupine and broken glass . This is his latest to be translated to English and is a memoir of his return to Congo and his home town .Since he last featured here on the blog Alain Mabanckou has been on the Man international prize list and was on  this years Priz Goncourt longlist for his latest novel in French .He is also one of my favourite writers ever !!

For a long ttime , then , I let people think my mother was still alive .In a way I had no choice but to lie , having picked up the habit way back in primary school when I brought my two older sisters back to life in an attempt to eacape teasing of my classmate , who were all very proud of their large familes , and offered to  “lend” my mother their offspring

He remembers his mother and being at school , the school now named  after a leader once hated by the locals .

The lights of Pointe-Noire follows Alain Mabanckou as he returns to his home .He left in 1989 , he didn’t return when his m other died but many year later in 2012 . What faces him is his home town Pointe-Noire a busy port town that he left and he has written about in his novels , was no more the sights he remember have changed vastly in the time he was away .The cinema he loved is now a church , the faces he knew have aged .WE see him in the two weeks he spends there in a flat from the French goverment pieces together past and present the brutal nature of what was his bringing up (brutal maybe to us , but he doesn’t turn this into a misery story , no it is littered with that wit , I so love in his fiction ) Mabanckou is able to mix humour with the deepest darkest sides of the human soul .As characters from his past reappear not only do you see them as they are now but as they were and also the sense of how he used them in his books .

Now I notice various details that I haven’t seen before .For example , my mother’s right shoulder seems to be crushing me , while my father ‘s trying to keep us propped up .that’s why his head is pressed up against mine .I can see , too , my t=father’s finger on my mother’s left shoulder .I think it must be his left arm holding us up and without it we wouldn’t have managed to hold the pose . Lastly , the marks left by the bottles on the surface of the table suggest the waiters didn’t wipe them very often

Looking at an old photo , don’t we all notixce how odd we can seem , I remember one of dad , mill , my brother duncan and I that seems so posed now .

It’s often said the past is a foreign country and this is shown to be so true in this book although the places look familar to Alain as he revisited where he grew up after nearly a quarter of a century away .The sense of the place has moved on and he is returning but more like a figure captured on a sepia toned photograph of the place he want tpo escape did escape , but has used so much in his fiction he never real escaped the people that surrounded him , do we ever really escape our past just put it in a different box in our memory .

Have you a favourite book from Alain Mabanckou , if not you should read him ?

Lemona’s Tale by Ken Saro-Wiwa

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Lemona’s tale by Ken Saro-Wiwa

Nigerian literature

Source – personnel copy

We begin our day by the way of the gun,
Rocket propelled grenades blow you away if you front,
We got no police ambulance or fire fighters,
We start riots by burning car tires,
They looting, and everybody start shooting,
Bullshit politicians talking bout solutions, but it’s all talk,
You can’t go half a block with a road block,
You don’t pay at the road block you get your throat shot,
And each road block is set up by these gangsters,
And different gangsters go by different standards,
For example, the evening is a no go,
Unless you wanna wear a bullet like a logo,
In the day you should never take the alleyway,
The only thing that validates you is the AK,
They chew on Jad it’s sorta like coco leafs,
And there ain’t no police…

I choose one my favourite songs of recent times K’naan what is hardcore maybe captures life under a regime of terror in His home land Somali .

I should put this up yesterday sorry Lisa (Anzlitlovers ) but as I came to write last night I was just to tired to write much so here is my Indigenous week book Choice . Ken Saro-Wiwa a Nigerian writer , was a member of the Ogoni people a small indigenous population from South east Nigeria , Ken Saro-Wiwa held various government post in his country during the early eighties ,.But a regime change and his own worries about what was happening to his people and their land lead him to lead the party that represent them . He fell foul of the military government in the early nineties arrest on a number of occasions , in the end he was sentenced to death and died in 1995 . A fact that chilling makes this book so much more powerful  to the reader .

“Lemona .Lemona . Beautiful woman .Exquisite .She’ll be hanged tomorrow .You know that , don’t you ?  And you insist on seeing her ? Well , I have no objection personally .But I don’t know if she’ll agree to see you .That’s the problem .That’s woman is an enigma .

The opening lines of this book on her last day .

Lemona’s tale is a tale of a woman who had spent 25 years of her life in Jail .She like Ken is a member of the Ogoni .This day we see is the last day of her life she is about to be executed .What we see is the day slowly drawing out , whilst at the same time she recounts her life story and how she end up in jail and how various males she met lead to this .She started of in a Village but has been one of those woman who seems to end up at the wrong side of life and is used by those around her  .This leads to the event that saw her get jailed , but carries on even after she gets to jail as she is abused by those in the jail .

He always refrained from speaking about his family , particularly his wife , to me . I respected that , because I was likely to get jealous if he spoke about her .Indeed I remember that once when he dared to mention Aduke (his wife ) , I threw a tantrum , most uncharacteristically . I don’t believe he thought me capable of anger . I displayed on that occasion .After that , “The family ” became the code for his wife .

She was a mistress , but is this a glimpse of something that happens later ?

This book is a powerful slice of recent history in Nigeria .What makes it so haunting is that my  book was first published her the year after Ken Saro-Wiwa himself had been executed in his homeland for Murder like Lemona , a charge he denied ,unlike the heroine (not sure that is the right word , but she lived through her trouble life ) he said he hadn’t done the murder he was accused off .Lemona’s tale is not just the story of the Ogoni people but a hundred small tribes and people who fell foul of regimes and dictators then and still now in some places in Africa .I find it scary that we in the uk tend to hear less news from Africa and what is happening in places than we did twenty years ago when there would often be stories about Nigeria and numerous other former british colonies .I feel if we still reported the news her we would maybe understand the current Refugee crisis in more depth !!This is first of a few african books in the next few weeks ?

 

By night the mountain burns by Juan Tomas Avila Laurel

 

 

 

By Night the M B front cover CMYK

By night the mountain burns by Juan Tomas Avila Laurel

Equatorial Guinea fiction

Original title – Arde el monte de noche

Translator – Jethro Soutar

Source – review copy

 

“Memories Can’t Wait”

Do you remember anyone here?
No you don’t remember anything at all
I’m sleeping, I’m flat on my back
Never woke up, had no regrets

There’s a party in my mind…And it never stops
There’s a party up there all the time…They’ll
party till they drop
Other people can go home…Other peoplle they can split
I’ll be here all the time…I can never quit

Was hard to find a lyric but talking heads for some reason seemed right and a song about memories .

Well this is one I had read last year but put to one-sided and never got too , which doesn’t mean I didn’t like it the opposite really I loved it at the time sometimes if I leave a book too long to get to I never do .So last few days I flicked through it again and remember what I enjoyed about it after it made the IFFP longlist .Juan Tomas Avila Laurel is one of the voice to speak out against his countries harsh regime .A well-known blogger in his country , he worked as a nurse .He chose to stay in Equatorial Guinea ,when a lot of his fellow writers left .He eventually left in 2011 after he went on hunger strike to tie in with a visit from a Spanish minister  .

If there were too few people on our Atlantic Ocean island , too few strong people , we obviously wouldn’t be able to fish in canoes .There would be no need to ask a woman to have malanga soup ready at particular hour of particular afternoon , and nobody would sing to pull a half made canoe to its final destination

The island works together at times .

Now By night the mountain burns is one of those books that feel as thou it has been around for years in its style of writing  because the world we see maybe hasn’t changed for years .laurel draws on the small island of Annobon which is part of the country but also maybe shows more what is wrong with the country as it is smaller and poorer  .But rather like Fois book bloodlines is cut off from the surround world a world caught in amber .In this case it is an island where some of the past still lives on in myths and traditions . But the island is faces many other problems as Cholera and fire have both broken out and are spreading like wildfire .This is all told to us through the eyes of one of the youngest members of a family the young grandchild of a family  .So will it be fire disease or the old superstitions that drive the family out ?

They made the dead man a coffin and in the afternoon they went to bury him , following the procedure I described earlier . All the children who lived on the streets of the funeral procession were shut up in their homes with the windows covered up , forbidden from going outside until the adults got back .

A world full of tradition and the fear of what cholrea have brought to the island

I really enjoyed this when I read it last year as it is what seems the second book to be translated from its country it is hard to compare it with any other African fiction as Equatorial Guinea is the only Spanish-speaking country in africa . But at the time I noted down one book it reminded me of and that boom was” the last will and testament of senhor Da Silva Arajo by Germano Almeida “a book from Cape Verde a small island off Africa rather like Annobon I was  reminded as both gave  me  a feel of island life (meaning it is rather slow and often can have developed its own mythology ).A great choice for the English pen translation programme bringing us a writer that stands up for what he believes and in this book he shows us in part what is so wrong with his home country .In this book rich in its poetic language .

have you read this book ?

Taxi by Khaled Al Khamissi

taxi

Taxi by Khaled Al Khamissi

Egyptian fiction

Original title -Hawadith al-mashawir

Translator – Jonathan Wright

Source personnel E book copy

Khaled Al Khamissi is an Egyptian born ,writer he has written two novels so far .He studied Political science and university .This book thou published in 2006 /7 .A ;lot of what is spoken in the book seems very much still to be the case in Egypt .

‘People wonder why the economy’s screwed up,’ the driver said. ‘It’s screwed up because of people. Would you believe it, a country like Egypt, the people here spend more than 20 billion pounds a year on telephone calls. Twenty billion pounds, I mean, if we didn’t talk for two or three years, would Egypt be different?

Khamissi, Khaled Al (2012-03-15). Taxi (English edition)

 

Taxi is made up of 58 stories or is it voices ,from all round Cairo the voice of the taxi drivers of Cairo ,their  stories paint the city from top to bottom from the upper echelons to the lowest street people ,what we get is a clutter city  but city wanting to move forward ,of hard-working souls and corruption and uneven lifestyles come across .The from seatbelts to cinema ,Iraq ,Palestine and Israeli all crop up in the chats note in the stories .But at the back of it from time to time is the police corruption and the president at the time Mubarak   looming in the background as we see these windows of Cairo tell the tales to a unnnamed man in the taxis .

‘The whole story was business on business. The big guys imported seatbelts and sold them and made millions . The Interior Ministry issued one ticket after the other and collected millions. The wretched cops on the street would stop you and say: “Where’s your seatbelt, you bastard?” and you’d have to slip him a fiver, and if he stopped you when an officer was there , it would be twenty pounds. I mean, everyone benefited.

how they ended up with seatbelts in the city according to one driver ?

Well this book still seems fresh not seven years on yes the modern Egypt has moved quickly ,but one feels from the bits we see on the UK news that the basic problems that underlie these stories and people in the stories are the same .The city comes across as a place of divide but also great characters . I was reminded of the book written about a tube train and its passengers that had great snippets of of there lives .Also the book has a non fiction feel at times ,you never quite sure what has been heard and what was made up ,I feel maybe from what I’ve read about the book one thing we maybe have missed in Jonathan Wrights great translation is dialect that part of the book that if you live in Cairo maybe opens the book even more like a Londoner would gather more from an east end dialect and a city boys speaking but that aside I felt it was a great view into Cairo just before it blew up and maybe in here are a few clues too why it happened .

What is your favourite book on Egypt ?

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