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African Voices

April 2007

This month we celebrate the PEN World Voices Festival by showcasing the rich diversity of African writing. In two takes on colonialism, Congo’s Alain Mabanckou’s “Blue White Red” flags the lasting influence of France on its former subjects, while Abdulrazak Gurnah’s Desertion maps British power in Zanzibar. Algerian Yasmina Khadra evokes the end of summer and the dashing of dreams in “Absence.” In dispatches from the extremes of teenage life in Ivory Coast, Marguerite Abouet’s graphic novel Aya draws us into the conventional life of a carefree adolescent girl, while Amadou Kourouma’s exuberantly profane teen soldier explains why “Allah Is Not Obliged.” Poet Amina Saïd returns to her native Tunisia in “I Introduce Myself to the World,” and Angola’s Ondjaki interrupts a doctor’s Sunday reverie in “Dragonfly.” 

Blue, White, Red
By Alain Mabanckou
Don’t say a word to anyone. Come alone. Make sure that you’re not being followed.
Translated from French by Alison Dundy
From “Desertion”
By Abdulrazak Gurnah
He forced himself to take shallow breaths, even though his instinct was to swallow huge heaving gulps to relieve the sense of suffocation he felt in the crowds and the alleyways.
By Yasmina Khadra
Bare chests will be covered up, pretentious laughter gasps its last; late nights, idleness, sleeping late-gone!
Translated from French by Lulu Norman
From “Aya”
By Marguerite Abouet
Translated from French by Helge Dascher
Allah Is Not Obliged
By Ahmadou Kourouma
Sit down and listen. And write everything down.
Translated from French by Frank Wynne
I Introduce Myself to the World
By Amina Saïd
I introduce myself to the world / mixed with my own shadows
Translated from French by Marilyn Hacker
By Ondjaki
Knowing this-that the doctor appeared deep in his Sunday routine-the woman hesitated.
Translated from Portuguese by Lisa Grayson