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April 2007

African Voices


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

At the beginning, there was the name. A humdrum name. A two-syllable name: Moki .  . . At the beginning, there was that name. Moki is standing in front of me. I see him again.

from Desertion

The wakil leading the way in front of him was a thin, wrinkled, fair-complexioned man with the curved spine that Frederick assumed came from a lifetime of crooked clerking. (A wrinkled old


Summer's reaching its end. Noise becomes intermittent; you no longer hear the throb of car engines, or children having fun. The village shrinks back inside its shell: the time for

from Aya

cover image

Allah Is Not Obliged

The full, final and completely complete title of my bullshit story is: Allah is not obliged to be fair about all the things he does here on earth. OK. Right. I better start explaining some

I Introduce Myself to the World

In poetry, one only inhabits the place one is leaving. -René Char The following poem was composed during a stay in Tunisia, the country of my birth, in July, my birth month:


for Dr. Carvalho if from these stones one announced what creates silence: here, close by, [ . . . ] this would open, like a wound you would have to plunge into --Paul Celan, "The Power


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