Standing Heavy by GauZ

Standing Heavy by Gauz

Ivorian Literature

Original title – Debout-Payé

Translator – frank Wynne

Source – Copy

Well it seems apt to review a book that frank has translated the day after we all watched him announce the Booker international winner last night this is the first book for a few month I have read that Frank has worked on this jumped out with its eye catching(lol) cover art. It is the debut novel by the Ivory Coast writer Gauzthe pen name of writer Patrick Armand-Gbaka Brede. As a young man he loved the books of Amadou Kourouma and Louis Ferdinand Celine and has also said the Maryse Conde and Romain Gary have influenced his writing. This was his debut novel and came after he had spent a number of years living in France and it follows a number of fellow Ivorians over three generations. as they try to get by in France.

THE BLIND WOMAN
Accompanied by her husband, her daughter and her dog, a blind woman is doing the sales. The man chatters to her constantly; his accent is from somewhere in the South of
France, and he speaks in precise, carefully constructed sentences. She spends time stroking the fabrics in order to make her choice. From time to time, he gently places his hand
on hers to steer her in the right direction. Another couple compelled to touch. Another display of tenderness. Another relationship based on co-dependency. The woman’s disability enhances the communication of those around her.

One of the character pen pictures we get throughout the book.Here about a Blind woman in the shop.

As I said the bookfollows three generations of a men as they arrive in Paris from the Ivory Coast and how over time they have often end as Security guards as they try to get by with out the right papers. The first in the 60s is Ferdinand(A nod to Celine I wonder) His story remind me of the wind rush literature I have read recently for he like many in those oaks arrived full of hope only to have it dashed. Then in the 90s We follow two Ivorians as they see a Paris in Flux then we have some that maybe is some like Gauz himself that’s traveled in the millennium years and ends up as the all seeing eyes of the security guard. Now that is a quick breeze through those three for me the part of the book is the little vignettes that we get a sort off Guards speak and Knowledge names customers etc what we get is a satirical view of their mundane lives but how they see all there but as so often not see by most shoppers barring the Arab princess.He capture the comradely but also the struggles of the immigrants.

 Security Guards in the Movies

In the tens of thousands of movies and B-Movies that have been made since the Lumber brothers first made The arrival of a train at La ciotart, no security guard has ever been shown as a hero. On the contrary, security guards are usually the characters who quickly and casually killed off as part of the hero’s plan to get final confirmation with the bad guy in the last scene

The Last scene of Brain De Palm’s scarface, when Tony Montana’s house is attacked is a perfect example of the senseless slaughter of security guards in cinema

They are sometime like the Guys in the red uniform in the first series of Star Trek a one episode Job!!

I enjoyed this is as I regularly work with some agency staff at work everyday who work along side us and there to help with the risks we have with a patient and a number of them are from Nigeria and Ghana and when they chat about there work and lives it struck a chord with Gauz  characters and their stories and shows how certain jobs end mainly being done by African immigrants as they are just suited and have the skills for them. So I love it when you connect to works of fiction on a personal level and this especially when it is in books of translation so when these guys chatted it felt like some of the chats we have at work.I loved his eye for detail those little vignettes and pen pictures about what they see and how they work but also however time you can read people so well. It is an insight into those guards. I mean how often do we see them  apart from as it is point out those Babies always seem to smile or they try to make them smile. Now this is Gauz Debut novel and as Tony mentioned in his review he has written another book that sort of flips the story here as it follows a white man in the Ivory Coast in the 19th century. Which I we may hopefully see.If you are after a satirical look at life as a Guard in Paris. Do you know any other novels that highlights those people that we pass unseen in jobs that are there but we don’t see the cleaner, waiters, etc. A great new voice and one I hope we see more from him and Frank has brought this vibrant book to life.

Winstons score – +A an insight to that man in the corner of the shops in Paris.

Waiting for the wild beasts to vote by Ahmadou Kourouma

Source – personnel copy

Translator – Frank Wynne

 

Earlier this year when I interview Frank Wynne the translator of this book to name his favourite translation he choose this book .By the late Ahmadou Kourouma ,he grew up in Ivory coast ,from a well-known family he spent time in the french military and studied in Lyon in france (mathematics).But after his homeland of Ivory coast gained independence from france in 1960 ,he questioned the leadership of Felix houphouet-Boigny  and was sent to prison and after that spent thirty years in exile returning in 1994 just after the death of Felix H-B .Ahmadou Kourouma died in 2003 .

So what is waiting for the wild beasts to vote about well ,it is a story of an African leader told by a Bingo a sora (a storytelling singer) told over five nights .The leader Koyoga was an orphan that became a leader of the gulf coast ( a made up african country but easily a number of countries round ivory coast )and along the way gain a huge mythology about his life and what had happen to him .we see the french involvement at the start with what are called the naked people ,then Koyoga father was the first of this tribe to wear clothes .Then we see Koyoga a solider take power in his homeland and start of with ideals and standards a friend of the west france in particular .But then his promises start to fall apart and people start to doubt him so he turns to violence and corruption to keep power .

When you recovered the Qur’an and the aerolite,you will ready yourself for democratic presidential elections . Elections based on universal suffrage supervised by an independent National commission .You will seek a new mandate secure in the knowledge that you will triumph ,that you will be re-elected .For you know ,you are certain ,that if by chance men refuse to vote for you ,the beast will come from the jungle ,will lay their hands on ballot paper and will elect you by a landslide .

The closing page and the title of the book is made clear .

Well this book is a must read for anyone ,part magic realism part african folk tale ,also a chunk of history of post colonial africa .Is Koyoga far-fetched ,well no if you’ve watch the film  the  last king of Scotland or any programme about the regimes and the leaders in Romania ,North Korea and many others to know that fact and fiction and what these people did in their lives are very blurred . Kourouma is a wonderful storyteller Bingo brings the leaders life to life through his tales .This book is also closely related to the Latin american dictator novels by Roa Bastos or Angel Asturias in the fact like them it examine the character of the people in this case post french africa ,there is some say that it was Togo president Eyedema was the main blueprint for the leader as he like Koyaga had a mythical status having being the sole survivor of a plane crash .But in my opinion it is far wider than that and yes it is based in africa but erase the names and some of the place it could be south america ,south-east asia or even post soviet states .So if you want an insight into africa ,the mind of a dictator ,how much the western world has influence in the third world .I know this is due out shortly as an E-BOOK as Frank told me when I meet him at IFFP prize .This is probably in the top ten novels about Afica for me if not top of that list .It sold over a 100,00 books in france when published .

Do you have a favorite African novel ?

Do you have a favourite dictator novel ?

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