Djibril found his way out of a deadend life in his native Djibouti by pursuing his studies in France where he met his wife. Now based in Montreal and working as a freelance economic intelligence investigator, he returns to Djibouti on an assignment. As was to be expected, « Djib » as he is commonly known in his new life, has a hard time facing remnants of his past and the report ends up taking longer than planned.
Alternating with Djib’s increasingly frantic notes, are pages written by a prisoner whose tone flares up as the story progresses. Djib’s every move is being watched by a terrorist network seemingly taking orders from the isolated jail cell. But even this mysterious prisoner, living in the shadow of his « venerable master », sees his convictions checked when strange words appear on the page, recounting episodes in the life of Walter Benjamin.
This review has been long in coming, mainly because I was pondering whether to write about Passage of Tears at all. The story failed to really get me on board, except for the parts where Djibril recalls his childhood in Djibouti and his deep friendship with David. The rest felt like a cross between an exposé on Horn of Africa military and diplomatic issues, an attempt at a spy novel, a self-indulgent introduction to Walter Benjamin’s life, and a not-so-clever satire of terrorist groups. It was a tall order trying to do all these things at once and the trying did show.
I wasn’t surprised by twists in the plot nor did the characters feel real. Let’s just say I wasn’t impressed by Le passage des larmes, but I’m still open to reading other works by Abdourahman Waberi. Second chances 🙂 Has anyone got a recommendation ?
About the author
Abdourahman Waberi is a Djibouti-born writer and academic with an impressive international port-folio of residencies, prizes and of course, published works translated in ten languages. He studied English Literature in France before starting a rich career as a teacher, essayist, literary critic, besides his fiction writing.
Ready to read?
Abdourahman Waberi, Le passage des larmes, Editions JC Lattès, 1st edition 2009, 248 pages.
English translation by David and Nicole Ball. Passage of tears, Seagull Books – The Africa List
This post is part of a series attempting to document my participation in the Africa Reading Challenge 2015, for which I’ve pledged to read more African authors writing in French. Previous review: Très bonnes nouvelles du Bénin by Jacques Dalodé.