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Transit: A Novel (Global African Voices) Paperback – 25 Nov 2012


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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press (25 Nov 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0253006899
  • ISBN-13: 978-0253006899
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.5 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,852,086 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Review

"... the rebellious Abdourahman Waberi." J. M. G. Le Clezio, Winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize for Literature "Through Bashir's simple, direct observations, we see a country rife with corruption and hopelessness. Despite the horrors he recounts, his chapters are funny." - NUVO

About the Author

Abdourahman A. Waberi is a novelist, essayist, poet, teacher, and short-story writer. Born in Djibouti, he now lives and writes in France. He is author of The Land without Shadows, In the United States of Africa, and Passage des larmes. Winner of the Stefan-Georg-Preis, the Grand prix litteraire d'Afrique noire, and the Prix biennal "Mandat pour la liberte," he was chosen one of the "50 Writers of the Future" by the French literary magazine Lire.David Ball and Nicole Ball have previously translated Waberi s novel In the United States of Africa."

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 19 Feb 2013
Format: Paperback
In this thought-provoking and often enigmatic novel, Abdourahman Waberi reflects on the series of horrors - political, economic, religious, and environmental - which have dominated Djibouti in recent years, using five different speakers, each of whom comments on his life, past and present, and often switches back and forth among speakers within a single monologue. The novel opens at Roissy Airport (Charles de Gaulle), where Bashir Assoweh, an uneducated, adolescent veteran of Djibouti's civil war is hoping for admission into France, and asylum. Standing at Roissy, beside a middle-aged intellectual named Harbi, who will almost certainly be granted asylum, Bashir is assumed by French Immigration to be Harbi's son. Neither of them corrects that assumption.

Abdo-Julien, Harbi's real son, is not with Harbi, his whereabouts unclear, and Alice, Harbi's French wife, is also not present. Alice met her husband at a school of journalism in France, attracted his attention, then came with him to Djibouti to live. She does not miss France, and its "sugared crepes or crepes flambé," but in Djibouti, she finds that "You don't really know who you are, or who they are...They put you in a ready-made box: you're the mixed couple people look at suspiciously."

Awaleh, the elderly grandfather of this novel, muses on the earth, its mysteries, and its spells, as he reflects on the ancient history of his country. Adam and Eve, for him, are a relatively recent concept, reflecting time as recorded in the Bible. "Little Lucy," in whom he does believe, is, by contrast, a 3.2 million-year-old hominid fossil who was "waiting" to be discovered in the Rift Valley by anthropologist Donald Johanson in 1975.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 2 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
"We are grains of sand washed up onto someone else's desert, and that's what we'll always remember." 19 Feb 2013
By Mary Whipple - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In this thought-provoking and often enigmatic novel, Abdourahman Waberi reflects on the series of horrors - political, economic, religious, and environmental - which have dominated Djibouti in recent years, using five different speakers, each of whom comments on his life, past and present, and often switches back and forth among speakers within a single monologue. The novel opens at Roissy Airport (Charles de Gaulle), where Bashir Assoweh, an uneducated, adolescent veteran of Djibouti's civil war is hoping for admission into France, and asylum. Standing at Roissy, beside a middle-aged intellectual named Harbi, who will almost certainly be granted asylum, Bashir is assumed by French Immigration to be Harbi's son. Neither of them corrects that assumption.

Abdo-Julien, Harbi's real son, is not with Harbi, his whereabouts unclear, and Alice, Harbi's French wife, is also not present. Alice met her husband at a school of journalism in France, attracted his attention, then came with him to Djibouti to live. She does not miss France, and its "sugared crepes or crepes flambé," but in Djibouti, she finds that "You don't really know who you are, or who they are...They put you in a ready-made box: you're the mixed couple people look at suspiciously."

Awaleh, the elderly grandfather of this novel, muses on the earth, its mysteries, and its spells, as he reflects on the ancient history of his country. Adam and Eve, for him, are a relatively recent concept, reflecting time as recorded in the Bible. "Little Lucy," in whom he does believe, is, by contrast, a 3.2 million-year-old hominid fossil who was "waiting" to be discovered in the Rift Valley by anthropologist Donald Johanson in 1975. For Awaleh, that kind of long view of history is what matters most, and he spends much of his time in lyrical contemplation of nature and the beauty within it, even as he yearns for the nomadic past. He is the historical anchor of the novel.

Gradually, the backstory fills in as each character's monologue expands and allows the reader to make connections among the various speakers, though some of these connections are tenuous. Bashir tells about his own life and why he changed his family name from Assoweh to Binladen. Eventually, through Bashir, the reader learns about the various factions in favor and opposed to the government, the intrusions of the Germans, French, and US as the situation in the capital deteriorates and threatens the rest of the world, arms trafficking, the plentiful supply of drugs of all kinds, and about the child soldiers who have been drafted by the government. Of the children, Bashir says, "Little soldier, he too-too-dangerous all the time cause he mix up game and battle. He mix life and death with big smile on his face."

Each of the speakers has his own style of monologue, the most difficult for the translators, David and Nicole Ball, obviously being that of Bashir, who speaks in slang which does not translate easily. For the reader, however, none of the monologues is easy or completely clear, and all have flashbacks and changes of point of view within. The recognition of a plot comes gradually as the details from different time periods sort themselves out, and when the reader reaches the end of the novel, the author has an Epilogue from Harbi which addresses the universal refugee situation: "We are grains of sand washed up onto someone else's desert..." Enigmatic depiction of colonialism, the internal conflicts it unleashes, and the immediate local effects on small, third-world countries.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
"Never will a single story be told as though it's the only one" (John Berger) 6 Jan 2013
By Friederike Knabe - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
How to capture the complexity and the desolate conditions in the small African country of Djibouti in a novel? How to convey Djibouti's central role in the international power game and how this role impacts individuals and groups? How to create a portrait that conveys something of the inner soul of the people, their suffering and pain, but also their perseverance and search for happiness in a way that we as readers can relate to without feeling totally overwhelmed? Abdourahman A. Waberi is an award winning author from Djibouti (now residing in France) who has set himself the challenging task to explore these questions in his 2003 French-language novel TRANSIT, recently translated into English by David Ball and Nicole Ball who previously translated Waberi's highly satirical novel, In the United States of Africa (French Voices).

The novel's prologue introduces two Djibouti men in an immigration waiting area in Paris's Roissy (Charles de Gaulle) Airport: a young ex- soldier, Bashir, and Harbi, a middle-aged member of the opposition's intellectual elite. While they are waiting their minds turn back to what they have left behind... What follows are alternating monologues by Bashir and three members of Harbi's closest family: his French wife Alice, their son Abdo-Julien and Awaleh, Abdo-Julien's grandfather. Their distinct voices convey their very different experiences and the resulting, often opposing worldviews. For example, Alice came to Djibouti as a young happy wife who immediately fell in love with the beauty of the desert land and learned to adjust to life so different from hers in France. In her monologue, she addresses her son to give him a better grounding in his double identity and his home. The grandfather's voice is an important link to history, ancestors and the spirit world. The young Abdo-Julien embarks on his own path.

Central and prominent is the voice of Bashir, the orphan boy with little education but a sharp wit and astute observation abilities. He gives an at times hilarious running commentary on the everyday life of the simple recruits like himself, mixed in with his views on the political intrigues and battles between powerful chiefs, politicians and the prominently present French and American soldiers: a portrait of the country and its ongoing challenges. (Djibouti's main economy relies on its important international trading port.) Bashir's views are to the point, cynical even if sometimes naïve; his language is made up of crude colloquialisms that are very difficult to translate and the translators have to be congratulated for their efforts to capture the style and meaning. Bashir is not easy to understand even then and it takes some patience to follow his story lines. He addresses the reader and is at pains to explain historical background as well as current events - at least as far as he understands the circumstances.

The four monologues stand each on their own, alternating at different frequencies, leaving it up to the reader to build the various strands into a more integrating whole. The Epilogue picks up some of those elements and introduces at least one substantial linkage, however, for me as a reader, other questions that I had carried with me, were left unanswered. In general, nonetheless, I think it is an important book with an unusual structural approach that matches the complexity of the subject matter. It should be of interest to anybody interested in the political realities of African's many border and power conflicts, and the Horn of Africa region and Djibouti in particular. [Friederike Knabe]

The publisher made a review copy available to me, the review reflects my own opinion.
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