My second book in my effort to read a book by an author from every African country is Gaël Faye’s Small Country. Faye was born and raised in Burundi to a French father and a Rwandan refugee mother. At age 13, he fled to France. Small Country is an autobiographical novel, drawing on Gaye’s childhood experiences.
Here’s my quick take:
Rwanda’s neighbor to the south, Burundi, gets far less attention but also has a deeply troubled history. Faye, born and raised in Burundi to a French father and a Rwandan refugee mother, gives a glimpse at life over the course of coups, civil war, and stealing mangos with the neighborhood boys in this novel. Beautifully written and very evocative, Sarah Ardizzone delivers a lyrical translation into English.
Here are two passages that stood out to me. The first is on the morning of a coup.
I discovered that it was traditional to play classical music during a military coup. On November 28, 1966, for Michael Micombero’s coup, it was Schubert’s piano sonata No. 21; on November 9, 1976, for Jean-Baptiste Bagaza’s coup, it was Beethoven’s 7th symphony; and on September 3, 1987, for Pierre Buyoya’s coup, it was Chopin’s Bolero in C major. On this day, October 21, 1993, we were treated to Wagner’s Twilight of the Gods.
And the other is on genocide, recounted after his mother returns from trying to locate her loved ones after the Rwandan massacre.
Genocide is an oil slick: those who don’t drown in it are polluted for life.
Highly recommended. The audiobook is well narrated by Dominic Hoffman.