Djibouti, a hot, impoverished little country on the top of Africa, is a strategically important place crediting its coast lies as a crucial passage for the world’s oil. In this novel by Abdourahman A. Waberi, Djibril, a young Djiboutian voluntarily exiled in Montreal, returns to his native land not to meet his friends but to prepare a report for an American economic intelligence firm.
But how come a shadowy, threatening figure imprisoned in an island cell seems to know Djibril’s every move. He takes dictation from his preaching cellmate known as his “Venerable Master,” but as the words are put on the page, a completely different text appears the life of Walter Benjamin who happens to be Djibril’s favorite author.
‘Passage of Tears’ cleverly mixes many genres and forms of writing, it is simultaneously a spy novel, political thriller, diary, travel notebook, legends, parables, incantations, and prayers.
Djibril’s reminiscences gives a sense of Djibouti’s past and its people, along with a satire of Muslim fundamentalism is unwittingly delivered through the other Djiboutian voice.
Waberi’s inventive parody is a lesson in tolerance, while his poetic observations reveal his love and concern for his homeland. It is translated by David and Nicole Ball.
The French-Djiboutian novelist, poet, and essayist Abdourahman A. Waberi is one of the leading francophone writers of his generation. His other books include The Land Without Shadow, Harvest of Skulls, and Rifts, Roads and Rails. Together or separately, David and Nicole Ball have published nine book-length translations, most recently Waberi’s In the United States of Africa.