Passage of Tears
Number of pages
An exile returns home to Djibouti, on behalf of the country that took him in, believing he could avoid the dangers he fled. But as this true-to-life suspense novel shows, past and present dangers often spin overlapping webs that cannot be escaped.
After a decade of exile in Montreal, Djibril returns to Djibouti on a mission to analyze the African nation’s general economic and political situation. The commissioning agency has given him one week to conduct his research on this explosive country that is prized by the United States, France, Dubai, and a group of Islamic militants. After that week, the agency, tells him, it cannot guarantee his safety. Djibril is sure that he can carry out his task in the time allotted without reliving his past or even reconnecting with family and friends. He finds, however, that his past refuses to stay buried. His report suffers as he becomes tangled in memories of long-evaded events: His grandfather, his mother, his twin brother, his friends, and the landscape itself come to haunt him. His mind fills with thoughts of them, even as it drifts back to the work and the life of Walter Benjamin, the philosopher he most admires.
From his prison cell, Djibril’s jihadist twin brother, Djamal, follows his every move. How different their paths were and are becomes clear as the enraged Djamal, in alternating chapters, preaches his fundamentalist beliefs. As the week Djibril was warned not to overstay passes, he becomes entangled not only with memories of his family but also with real and present dangers from them . . . and from the Islamists.
Abdourahman A. Waberi : Abdourahman A.Waberi, born in Djibouti in 1965, is the prize-winning author of several novels, including Le Pays sans ombre (Serpent à plumes, 1994; University of Virginia Press, 2005), Cahier nomade (Serpent à plumes, 1996), and Aux Etats-Unis d’Afrique (J.C. Lattès, 2006; published in the United States as In the United States of Africa by Bison Books in 2009; winner of a French Voices Award), which explore the linked themes of exile and nomadism. His short stories and articles have appeared in Grand Street, the Mail, the Guardian, the Literary Review, and Harper’s. He lives as a teacher and writer in France and also teaches literature in the United States at Wellesley College and at Claremont McKenna College.