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The Oldest Orphan Paperback – 1 Jan 2004

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"A devastatingly moving novel about one of the greatest tragedies of the twentieth century. That it is an African tragedy and that the author is African makes it all the more important for American readers in these perilous times when national borders grow increasingly fragile. Translated with eloquent grace by Monique Fleury Nagem, this powerful book deserves the widest possible audience."--Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Huck Finn in Rwanda 14 Jan. 2005
By Karen K. Lewis - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Sometimes, constructing an elaborate fiction-as Tierno Monénembo does here-reveals an emotional truth deeper than would be possible with any journalistic account. Mr. Monénembo has lived in exile from his native Guinea since 1969, studying in Senegal, Abidjan, and Lyon before settling in Normandy. The Oldest Orphan is his seventh novel, and second of his books to be translated to English.

The narrative is fragmented between flashback and a blur of present tense, where the protagonist Faustin's memory wanders between age 10 and age15. At age 15, Faustin exists in prison, awaiting execution, accused of killing the boy who allegedly raped his sister. Faustin faces heroic challenges with humor, resourcefulness, and remnants of an innocence that has been brutally truncated by genocidal mania. The facts are difficult, and blurred, against the backdrop of social & political upheaval.

This is an important novella concerning the Rwanda genocide of 1994, written by one of the strongest literary voices available in translation from the African continent.
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