Black Foam by Haji Jabir


Black Foam by Haji Jabir

Eritrean fiction

Original title – “رغوة سوداء”

Translators  – Sawad Hussain and Marcia Lynx Qualey

Source – review copy

When I was offered the chance to review this I jumped at it as it is a new country for Winstonsdad but also I saw it was translated by Marcia Qualey anyone around the world of translated fiction will know as she runs Arablit website and magazine also has a great podcast she does around Arabic literature all of these is the goto place for ARABIC Literature. Anyway back to the book and to Haji Jabir he was born in a coastal town in Eritrea he has written five novels and is involved with other writers from his country to try and bridge the gap from his country to both the Arabic and African world. I reviewed a book earlier this month from WEST Africa about being a migrant from there well this takes us to East Africa. We follow a different route out of Africa.

He paused for a moment before admitting that he wanted to pay a bribe to be let in. He was afraid it wouldn’t sit right with her, but he decided to move decisively toward his goal, since she had been so frank with him. He was counting on her immense sense of gratitude and her willingness to help. And, as it happened, Saba brushed aside the points in his story where he’d feared she might stop. But then she paused on another matter. “Do you think money is the only thing that stands between you and the Falasha camp?”

His journey has many twists and turns

We follow one man’s journey from Eritrea to first a couple of Places in Ethiopia and then across the Red sea and on to Israel. But who is that man Dawood, David, or Dawit he is a man that changes who he is to try and get by in each new place to get near to the chance to get out and go to Israel. But this is a story of a man on the run that yes can fit in but over time every time gets caught he can be a Muslim, a Christian, and in the end a Jew as he wants to be with a group of Beta Israel the Falasha Jews from Ethiopia. He also observes things like how when he arrives in Addis the capital there isn’t a country ready for war in a way showing his isolation. He is the child of soldier that fought in the war and was in the army himself. we see his and the country’s isolation. He heads through to Gondar the area of Ethiopia where the Falasha Jews are from as he does like a lizard he shed a name and a way of life to make the final step to Israel but then he sees what happens when your skin is darker in that country. All this drifts in the book as thou he looks back at what has brought him to his final destination. As he drifts through the back alleys and darker side of Jerusalem.

The European looked surprised by David’s question. It took him a moment to realize he had emerged from the story, only to be dragged right back in. He almost answered and really, he would’ve liked to give an answer. But after a moment, he realized his dilemma. He had the choice to come closer, but after that, he wouldn’t have a chance to back out. Stories have one door through which we can enter, after which we spin in their world forever. No matter what we think, chere’s no escape from the stories in which we become entangled.

As he ends up as David he has so many stories but which is his real story.

I said I reviewed a book earlier this month about a man that failed to get out of his country but here we see. a man escaping his country but also who he is. What is in a name that is a question we see in this book does a change of name and who you pretend to believe in the change you as a person? But what is at each person’s heart can this one man get through it is about minorities whether that is Eritrean or Falasha the marginalized of this world trying for a better life this book looks at just one man’s journey but how many peoples lives is in this tale how many people try to follow David’s route in part as we see it told in flashback through the book his childhood the wanting to get out and the finally getting there and it not being what it seemed to him. Have you a favorite read from East Africa ?

Winstons score -+A We see David journey through the many skins and names he wore along the way!


June 2023


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