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Book Bites: 23 April 2017

Published in the Sunday Times

Heartbreak HotelHeartbreak Hotel
Jonathan Kellerman (Headline)
Book thrill
***
A refreshing departure for Kellerman’s Alex Delaware novels. Instead of being thrown into LA’s sick psychosexual underworld, this novel opens with Delaware being asked to meet an almost-centenarian at a once-glamourous LA hotel. He likes the dynamic Thalia Mars, who asks him questions about guilt, victim selection and patterns of criminal behaviour. Thalia, though, is dispatched swiftly, and it’s up to Delaware and his cop pal, Milo Sturgis, to unravel her murder. A heart-thumping romp through LA gangster history, replete with jewel heists and blood feuds, Kellerman’s latest is the most genteel of his novels in a long time – and all the more enjoyable for it. – Russell Clarke @russrussy

MischlingMischling
Affinity Konar (Atlantic Books)
Book buff
*****
Mischling is a horrifically beautiful novel that follows 12-year-old twins Stasha and Pearl. It’s 1944, and they’ve been brought into Auschwitz and placed in the notorious Mengele’s Zoo. “Angel of Death” Josef Mengele especially sought out twins to perform grotesque experiments on. The fictional tale has been well researched. Mengele is the main factual character. The rest are imaginary but, like the twins, have been modelled on people who suffered during the atrocity. Konar’s artistic prose sucks the reader into a nightmare where children endure the unbearable. The devastating contrast between the writing and the monstrosity creates an eerie and unforgettable read. Keep the tissues close. – Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

RattleRattle
Fiona Cummins (Pan Macmillan)
Book thrill
***
Former Daily Mirror showbiz journo Fiona Cummins’s debut thriller has a shout by Val McDermid, no less, and is rumoured to be in the works as a TV series. Detective Sergeant Ella Fitzroy is investigating a spate of missing children: her personal life is a mess so she invests her energy in her job, trying to discover what links the abductees. A psychopath is using London as his hunting ground, stealing children with bone deformities so he can add their skeletons to the collection in his private museum. A story the Daily Mirror would love. – Aubrey Paton

Turbo Twenty-ThreeTurbo Twenty-Three
Janet Evanovich (Headline)
Book fling
***
It’s just more of the same Stephanie Plum adventures: gun-wielding Lula, two unbelievably sexy gents vying for Plum’s attention (the cop Joe Morelli and the mysterious Ranger), her unconventional grandma, and Rex the hamster. Many readers must be hoping that this will be Evanovich’s last, because the magic seems to be dwindling – maybe due in part to the disastrous film adaptation with the badly miscast Katherine Heigl. The banality of this latest endeavour will not change their minds. But if you are looking for nothing more than a light, funny read, Turbo Twenty-Three is not too bad. In this one Stephanie has to go undercover in an ice-cream factory. Hi-jinks involving human lollies and nuts abound. – Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt

Book details

Lives the numbers game: Michele Magwood talks to Paul Auster about his latest novel 4 3 2 1

Published in the Sunday Times

4 3 2 14 3 2 1
Paul Auster (Faber & Faber)
****

In the first cycle of Paul Auster’s colossal new book, a young boy is recovering in bed, having broken his leg falling out of a tree. He is musing on things more suited to an older child: on happenstance and destiny, on what is predetermined and what is fortuity or accidental. If his friend Chuckie Brower hadn’t asked him out to play, if his parents hadn’t bought a house with a tree in the backyard, if his parents had bought a house somewhere else and he wouldn’t even know Chuckie Brower. “Such an interesting thought, Ferguson said to himself: to imagine how things could be different for him even though he was the same. The same boy in a different house with a different tree.”

“So there, right at the beginning” says Paul Auster, “we’re being told what kind of book this is going to be, and how to read it.” He is speaking from his home in Brooklyn, his famously gravelled voice is warm and he is genial and expansive, despite dozens of interviews and appearances for the new book.

Now 70, Auster is a giant of American letters, frequently bracketed with De Lillo and Roth, or Thomas Pynchon. He is known as a writer of concision and elegant brevity and in latter years there have been murmurs of the Nobel Prize.

At 866 pages, though, 4 3 2 1 is a behemoth, a sprawling Bildungsroman that owes more to the German writer Heinrich Von Kleist than to spare modern stylists. A character’s description of Von Kleist could be applied to Auster here too: “The speed of his sentences, the propulsion. He tells and tells but doesn’t show much, which everyone says is the wrong way to go about it, but I like the way his stories charge forward.”

This is the story – or rather, four stories – of Archibald Ferguson, a Jewish boy born in New Jersey in 1947. He is the only child of Rose and Stanley and first we read of how they met and married. After that the story splits into four different trajectories, four different roads that Ferguson will travel.

In each of the contiguous versions, things change. The circumstances of his parents, for instance. In one Stanley dies in a fire, in another he divorces Rose. One Archie never has to worry about money, another gets by on scholarships and hauling furniture. One is bisexual, another learns he is sterile and will never have children. The extended cast of characters is the same, too, so his cousin Amy becomes a stepsister in one version, in another she’s no relation but Ferguson’s first great love.

Round and around the cycles whirl, charging on, intricately detailed, sentences streaming at times for half a page.

There are important similarities between the four. Every one of them is athletic and adores baseball and basketball, each will become a writer of some sort – poet, journalist, novelist – each loves old movies and classical music. All are precocious readers.

Midway through the book, however, they start to blur and one almost needs family trees to refer to. Is this the Ferguson whose cousin Francie is a saint or a harridan? Whose mother is a brilliant or a middling photographer or who has succumbed to depression? It is frustrating and all the reader can do is be carried along until it crystallises again.

“I didn’t want to write one of those wild fantasy books,” Auster explains. “Where one Archie becomes an astronaut, another becomes a scientist or a criminal. It didn’t seem plausible. They are the same genetic person, they have the same parents, after all. I didn’t want to do anything that seemed juvenile. I wanted to write a very serious book about human possibility.”

It is not a spoiler to say that one Archie dies, appallingly, at the age of 13 at summer camp. Another’s friend dies, equally awfully, at summer camp, a death that will stain that Archie’s life forever. Auster himself witnessed such a death at camp when he was 14, something he says has influenced his writing ever since. In much of his work cruel accidents or disaster strikes. This, then, seems to be the apogee of this theme.

“I think it’s the reason I wrote this book,” he agrees. “I was right next to my friend when he was killed in a lightning storm. It was probably the most important thing that happened to me in my young life. I had a sudden understanding that anything can happen at any moment to anybody. And that the solid ground I thought I’d been walking on up to that moment was not very solid at all. It’s affected me in all kinds of ways and certainly as a writer.”

4 3 2 1 is being described as “the crowning work of a masterful writer’s extraordinary career”. It’s going to be hard to cap that, but Auster has other plans. He was most recently in the headlines describing Donald Trump as “deranged and demented” and is determined to make his voice heard. He is set to become the head of PEN America next year. “Writing articles isn’t very useful, “ he says. “Anything I would publish would be read by people who agree with me. Whereas PEN has more of a presence in the world, a platform from which one can speak out more effectively.”

It reminds us of a note he wrote to JM Coetzee, with whom he has a close friendship. Their letters were published in 2013 in the book Here And Now, and in one he teases Coetzee about their advancing years. “I feel it is our duty to gripe and scold, to attack the hypocrisies, injustices, and stupidities of the world we live in. Let the young roll their eyes when we speak… we must carry on with utmost vigilance, scorned prophets crying into the wilderness – for just because we’re fighting a losing battle that doesn’t mean we should abandon the fight.”

Follow Michele Magwood @michelemagwood

*Listen to the podcast of Paul Auster here.

Book details

4 3 2 1 is also available as an eBook.

The Magwood on Books podcast with Paul Auster

American novelist Paul Auster on his latest epic novel, 4 3 2 1, the unexpected, human possibility, autobiographical references in books, and the adventure of the unknown when writing fiction.

Listen to the podcast here:


 
 

4 3 2 1

Book details

Literary Crossroads with Imraan Coovadia (SA) & Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (Nigeria)

Literary Crossroads is a series of talks where South African writers meet colleagues from all over the continent and from the African diaspora to discuss trends, topics and themes prevalent in their literatures today. The series is curated by Indra Wussow and Sine Buthelezi.

The guest speakers for the upcoming talk (to take place on May 16) will be Imraan Coovadia and Abubakar Adam Ibrahim. The discussion will be moderated by Danyela Dimakatso Demir.

About the guests:

Imraan Coovadia is a writer and director of the creative writing programme at UCT. His most recent novel is Tales of the Metric System (2014), which appeared in the US, South Africa, India, and Germany.

He is the author of The Institute for Taxi Poetry (2012), winner of the M-Net Prize, and a collection of essays, “Transformations” (2012), which won the South African Literary Award for Creative Non-Fiction. In 2010 his novel High Low In-between won the Sunday Times Fiction Prize and the University of Johannesburg prize. He has published a scholarly monograph with Palgrave, “Authority and Authorship in V.S. Naipaul” (2009), two earlier novels, and a number of journal articles. His fiction has been published in a number of countries, and he has written for many newspapers, journals, and magazines here and overseas, including the New York Times, N+1, Agni, the Times of India, and Threepenny Review.

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim is a Nigerian writer and journalist. His debut collection of short stories The Whispering Trees was long-listed for the Etisalat Prize for Literature in 2014, with the title story shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing. His debut novel Season of Crimson Blossoms was published in the UK in May 2016 by Cassava Republic Press. Abubakar is a Gabriel Garcia Marquez Fellow (2013) and a Civitella Ranieri Fellow (2015). In 2014, Abubakar was named in the Hay Festival Africa39 list of the most promising writers under the age of 40 who will define future trends in African writing. Abubakar is the recipient of the 2016 Goethe-Institut & Sylt Foundation African Writer’s Residency Award. He lives in Abuja, Nigeria.

Event Details

The Institute for Taxi Poetry

Book details

 
 
Tales of the Metric System

 
 
 

The Whispering Trees

 
 
 

Season of Crimson Blossoms

Shortlist for the Man Booker International Prize 2017 announced

The Man Booker International Prize revealed the shortlist of six books in contention for the 2017 prize, which celebrates the finest works of translated fiction from around the world.

Each shortlisted author and translator receives £1,000. The £50,000 prize for the winning book will also be divided equally between its author and translator.

The author, translator, and title of the shortlisted novel, as decided upon by the panel, are as follows:

Mathias Enard (France), Charlotte Mandell, Compass (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

David Grossman (Israel), Jessica Cohen, A Horse Walks Into a Bar (Jonathan Cape)

Roy Jacobsen (Norway), Don Bartlett, Don Shaw, The Unseen (Maclehose)

Dorthe Nors (Denmark), Misha Hoekstra, Mirror, Shoulder, Signal (Pushkin Press)

Amos Oz (Israel), Nicholas de Lange, Judas (Chatto & Windus)

Samanta Schweblin (Argentina), Megan McDowell, Fever Dream (Oneworld)

The list includes one writer who was previously a finalist for the prize in 2007, Amos Oz. He is one of two writers from Israel (the other is David Grossman) who have been shortlisted, along with a writer from South America, Samanta Schweblin, and three from Europe: two Scandinavians, Roy Jacobsen and Dorthe Nors and a Prix Goncourt winner, Mathias Enard from France.

The settings range from an Israeli comedy club to contemporary Copenhagen, from a sleepless night in Vienna to a troubled delirium in Argentina. The list is dominated by contemporary settings but also features a divided Jerusalem of 1959 and a remote island in Norway in the early 20th century.

The translators are all established practitioners of their craft: this is the 17th novel by Oz that Nicholas de Lange has translated and Roy Jacobsen’s co-translators Don Bartlett and Don Shaw have worked together many times before.

The shortlist includes three independent publishers, Pushkin, Oneworld and Fitzcarraldo. Penguin Random House has two novels through the imprints Chatto & Windus and Jonathan Cape, while Quercus’s imprint Maclehose has the final place on the list.

Nick Barley, chair of the 2017 Man Booker International Prize judging panel, comments:

Our shortlist spans the epic and the everyday. From fevered dreams to sleepless nights, from remote islands to overwhelming cities, these wonderful novels shine a light on compelling individuals struggling to make sense of their place in a complex world.

Luke Ellis, CEO of Man Group, comments:

Many congratulations to all the shortlisted authors and translators. We are very proud to sponsor the Man Booker International Prize as it continues to celebrate talent from all over the world. The prize plays a very important role in promoting literary excellence on a global scale, as well as underscoring Man Group’s charitable focus on literacy and education, and our commitment to creativity and excellence.

The shortlist was selected by a panel of five judges, chaired by Nick Barley, Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, and consisting of: Daniel Hahn, an award-winning writer, editor and translator; Elif Shafak, a prize-winning novelist and one of the most widely read writers in Turkey; Chika Unigwe, author of four novels including On Black Sisters’ Street; and Helen Mort, a poet who has been shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize and the Costa Prize, and has won a Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award five times.

The winner of the 2017 Prize will be announced on 14 June at a formal dinner at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, with the £50,000 prize being divided equally between the author and the translator of the winning entry.

A book synopses and biography of the authors, as per the press release:


Compass

Mathias Enard
Translated by Charlotte Mandell
Published by Fitzcarraldo Editions

Compass

As night falls over Vienna, Franz Ritter, an insomniac musicologist, takes to his sickbed with an unspecified illness and spends a restless night drifting between dreams and memories, revisiting the important chapters of his life: his ongoing fascination with the Middle East and his numerous travels to Istanbul, Aleppo, Damascus, and Tehran, as well as the various writers, artists, musicians, academics, orientalists, and explorers who populate this vast dreamscape. At the centre of these memories is his elusive, unrequited love, Sarah, a fiercely intelligent French scholar caught in the intricate tension between Europe and the Middle East. An immersive, nocturnal, musical novel, full of generous erudition and bittersweet humour, Compass is a journey and a declaration of admiration, a quest for the otherness inside us all and a hand reaching out – like a bridge between West and East, yesterday and tomorrow.

Mathias Enard, born in 1972 in Niort, France, studied Persian and Arabic and spent long periods in the Middle East. He has lived in Barcelona for about 15 years, interrupted in 2013 by a writing residency in Berlin. He won several awards for Zone, including the Prix du Livre Inter and the Prix Décembre, and won the Liste Goncourt/Le Choix de l’Orient, the Prix littéraire de la Porte Dorée, and the Prix du Roman-News for Street of Thieves. He won the 2015 Prix Goncourt for Compass.

Charlotte Mandell has translated fiction, poetry, and philosophy from the French, including works by Proust, Flaubert, Genet, Maupassant, Blanchot, and many other distinguished authors. She has received many accolades and awards for her translations, including a Literature Translation Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts for Zone. Born in Hartford Connecticut in 1968, she lives in New York State.

A Horse Walks Into a Bar
David Grossman
Translated by Jessica Cohen

Published by Jonathan Cape

A Horse Walks Into a Bar

The setting is a comedy club in a small Israeli town. An audience that has come expecting an evening of amusement instead sees a comedian falling apart on stage; an act of disintegration, a man crumbling before their eyes as a matter of choice. They could get up and leave, or boo and whistle and drive him from the stage, if they were not so drawn to glimpse his personal hell.
Dovale Gee, a veteran stand-up comic – charming, erratic, repellent – exposes a wound he has been living with for years: a fateful and gruesome choice he had to make between the two people who were dearest to him.

David Grossman is the bestselling author of numerous works, which have been translated into 36 languages. His most recent novels are To the End of the Land, described by British academic Jacqueline Rose as ‘without question one of the most powerful and moving novels I have ever read’, and Falling Out of Time. He is the recipient of the French Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and the 2010 Frankfurt Peace Prize. He was born in Jerusalem, where he currently resides, in 1954.

Jessica Cohen is a freelance translator born in England in 1973, raised in Israel, and living in Denver. Her translations include David Grossman’s critically acclaimed To the End of the Land, and works by major Israeli writers including Etgar Keret, Rutu Modan, Dorit Rabinyan, Ronit Matalon, Amir Gutfreund and Tom Segev, as well as Golden Globe-winning director Ari Folman. She is a past board member of the American Literary Translators Association and has served as a judge for the National Translation Award.

The Unseen
Roy Jacobsen
Translated by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw

Published by Maclehose

The Unseen

Ingrid Barrøy is born on an island that bears her name – a holdfast for a single family, their livestock, their crops, their hopes and dreams. Her father dreams of building a jetty that will connect them to the mainland, but closer ties to the wider world come at a price. Her mother has her own dreams – more children, a smaller island, a different life – and there is one question Ingrid must never ask her. Island life is hard, a living scratched from the dirt or trawled from the sea, so when Ingrid comes of age, she is sent to the mainland to work for one of the wealthy families on the coast. But Norway too is waking up to a wider world, a modern world that is capricious and can be cruel. Tragedy strikes, and Ingrid must fight to protect the home she thought she had left behind.

Roy Jacobsen has twice been nominated for the Nordic Council’s Literary Award: for Seierherrene in 1991 and Frost in 2003. In 2009 he was shortlisted for the Dublin Impac Award for his novel The Burnt-Out Town of Miracles. He was born in Oslo in 1961, where he currently resides.

Don Bartlett lives in Norfolk, UK and works as a freelance translator of Scandinavian literature. He has translated, or co-translated, Norwegian novels by Karl Ove Knausgård, Lars Saabye Christensen, Roy Jacobsen, Ingvar Ambjornsen, Kjell Ola Dahl, Gunnar Staalesen, Pernille Rygg, and Jo Nesbo. He was born in Norfolk in 1948.

Don Shaw is a teacher of Danish and author of the standard Danish–Thai/Thai–Danish dictionaries. He has worked with Don Bartlett on translating Erland Loe.

Mirror, Shoulder, Signal
Dorthe Nors
Translated by Misha Hoekstra

Published by Pushkin Press

Mirror, Shoulder, Signal

Sonja is an intelligent single woman in her 40s whose life lacks focus. The situation must change – but where to start? By learning to drive, perhaps. After all, how hard can it be? Very, as it turns out. Six months in, Sonja is still baffled by the basics and her instructor is eccentric. Sonja is also struggling with an acute case of vertigo, a sister who won’t talk to her, and a masseuse who is determined to solve her spiritual problems. Frenetic city life is a constant reminder that every man (and woman) is an island: she misses her rural childhood where ceilings were high and the sky was endless. Shifting gears is not proving easy.

Dorthe Nors was born in 1970 in Denmark, and studied literature at the University of Aarhus. She is one of the most original voices in contemporary Danish literature. Her short stories have appeared in numerous international periodicals, including the Boston Review and Harper’s, and she is the first Danish writer ever to have a story published in the New Yorker. Nors has published four novels, in addition to a collection of stories, Karate Chop, and a novella, Minna Needs Rehearsal Space, which were published together in English by Pushkin Press. Karate Chop won the prestigious P. O. Enquist Literary Prize in 2014. She lives in rural Jutland, Denmark.

Misha Hoekstra, born in the US in 1963, has won several awards for his literary translations. He lives in Aarhus, where he works as a freelance writer and translator, in addition to writing and performing songs. He also translated Minna Needs Rehearsal Space for Pushkin Press.

Judas
Amos Oz
Translated by Nicholas de Lange

Published by Chatto & Windus

Judas

Set in the still-divided Jerusalem of 1959-60, Judas is a tragi-comic coming-of-age tale and a radical rethinking of the concept of treason. Shmuel, a young, idealistic student, is drawn to a strange house and its mysterious occupants within. As he starts to uncover the house’s tangled history, he reaches an understanding that harks back not only to the beginning of the Jewish-Arab conflict, but also to the beginning of Jerusalem itself – to Christianity, to Judaism, to Judas.

Amos Oz was born in Jerusalem in 1939. He is the internationally acclaimed author of many novels and essay collections, translated into over forty languages, including his brilliant semiautobiographical work, A Tale of Love and Darkness. He has received several international awards, including the Prix Femina, the Israel Prize, the Goethe Prize, the Frankfurt Peace Prize and the 2013 Franz Kafka Prize. He lives in Israel and is considered a towering figure in world literature.

Nicholas de Lange
has been translating Amos Oz’s work since 1972, and Judas is the 17th novel by Oz that de Lange has translated. He has also translated fiction by Aharon Appelfeld, A.B. Yehoshua and S. Yizhar. He was born in Nottingham, UK in 1944, and still lives there.

Fever Dream
Samanta Schweblin
Translated by Megan McDowell

Published by Oneworld

Fever Dream

A young woman named Amanda lies dying in a rural hospital clinic. A boy named David sits beside her. She’s not his mother. He’s not her child. The two seem anxious and, at David’s ever more insistent prompting, Amanda recounts a series of events from the apparently recent past. As David pushes her to recall whatever trauma has landed her in her terminal state, he unwittingly opens a chest of horrors, and suddenly the terrifying nature of their reality is brought into shocking focus.

Samanta Schweblin was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1978. In 2001, she was awarded first prize by both the National Fund for the Arts and the Haroldo Conti National Competition for her debut, El Núcleo del Disturbio. In 2008, she won the Casa de las Américas prize for her second collection of stories, Pájaros en la boca. Two years later, she was listed among the Best of Young Spanish Writers by Granta magazine. Her work has been translated into numerous languages and appeared in more than twenty countries. She lives in Berlin.

Megan McDowell has translated many modern and contemporary South American authors, including Alejandro Zambra, Arturo Fontaine, Carlos Busqued, Álvaro Bisama and Juan Emar. Her translations have been published in The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, Words Without Borders, Mandorla, and Vice, among others. Born in Mississippi in 1978, she now resides in Chile.
 
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Fiction Friday: read an excerpt from Alain Mabanckou's acclaimed Black Moses

Alain Mabanckou’s Black Moses, set in the People’s Republic of Congo in 1970, is a comic tale of a man helping the helpless in an unjust society and was longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Prize. Black Moses was the only African title to appear on the longlist, but unfortunately didn’t make it to the shortlist.

Read an excerpt from the chapter “Pioneers Awake!” here:

The Director had been pulling strings to get his nephews Mfoumbou Ngoulmoumako, Bissoulou Ngoulmoumako and Dongo-Dongo Ngoulmoumako onto an ideological training course in Pointe-Noire so they could later become section leaders of the National Movement of Pioneers for our orphanage. They still remained under the control of their paternal uncle and particularly under that of two members of the USYC (Union of Socialist Youth of Congo), which was seen as the ‘nursery’ of the Congolese Workers’ Party because it was within this organisation that the government identified the young people who would go on one day to occupy positions of political responsibility in our country. The Director’s three nephews were thus promoted to a glorious future, which annoyed his three other nephews, on his mother’s side, Mpassi, Moutété and Mvoumbi, who were still stuck in their jobs as corridor wardens, though they too dreamed of becoming the orphanage’s section leaders of the National Movement of Pioneers. Unable to express their discontent to their uncle, they took it out on us instead. Their uncle had clearly favoured the paternal line over a family mix which might have calmed things down. Mpassi, Moutété and Mvoumbi felt they’d become underlings to the Director’s other nephews and we revelled in the stormy atmosphere among the wardens, which sometimes looked like spilling over into violence, until the Director intervened and threatened to replace them with northerners – which was enough to bring them to their senses…

It does not fall to everyone to become a section leader of the Union of Socialist Youth of Congo. The government sifted through the applications carefully, taking account of the ethnic origin of the candidates. As the northerners were in power – in particular the Mbochis – the leaders of the USYC were also Mbochis, an ethnic group which represented a scant 3.5 per cent of the national population. In other words, Dieudonné Ngoulmoumako had had to fight to fix the appointment of his three nephews, who were not Mbochi from the north, but Bembé from the south. In fact he had only partly got what he wanted because although they accepted his request, the political leaders of the Kouilou region suggested he go halves: his nephews could be section leaders, but under the command of the two northerners, Oyo Ngoki and Mokélé Mbembé, who in turn would be accountable to the national division at the annual congress in Brazzaville, to be attended by the President of the Republic himself.

“Those two old northerners who come every week for consciousness-raising sessions, how come they’re members of the Union of Youth, when they’re not youthful and their hair is whiter than manioc flour?”

Bonaventure was always pushing me to the limit. It was true that Oyo Ngoki and Mokélé Mbembé were the kind of adult who looked as though they’d never been young, with their dark suits, and myopic glasses. Either they spoke to us as though we were two- or three-year-olds, or they used their own special language which one of them had picked up in Moscow, the other in Romania. Mfoumbou Ngoulmoumako, Bissoulou Ngoulmoumako and Dongo-Dongo Ngoulmoumako copied their way of speaking, using the same expressions, which they didn’t understand and in which every sentence contained the word ‘dialectic’, or, as an adverb, ‘dialectically’:

“You need to consider the problem dialectically,” Bissoulou Ngoulmoumako would say.

“Dialectically speaking, our history has been written by the imperialists and their local lackeys, we must overthrow the system, the superstructure must not be allowed to outweigh the infrastructure,” Dongo-Dongo would affirm.

We never forgot, though, that before the Revolution the three former corridor wardens were just bruisers with zero intelligence. Now the Director had given them an office close to his on the first floor. They shut themselves in there to prepare Pioneers Awake!, a propaganda sheet that they posted on the wall of the hut of the National Movement of Pioneers every Monday morning. We had to read this publication before going in to class.

Continue reading here.

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