Friday, 4 January 2008

Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah

My first read of the year arrived as part of the Not So Secret Father Christmas BookCrossing Exchange. I'm not sure what I've said that would indicate that this would be a good book for me -- most of the fiction I read is crime fiction -- but it was an excellent choice.

Paradise is a story of Africa, subtly told as a coming of age novel. Yusuf is sent away from home to live with his "Uncle" Aziz near the sea and to tend his shop along with Khalil, another boy pawned to Uncle Aziz for his father's debts. As the book follows Yusuf from age 12 to late teens, he learns about the complicated relations between master and servant, trader and villager, Islam and animist religion, learns the landscape during trading journeys, sees the effects of colonisation on the Africans, watches the coming of war.

This novel is a good companion piece to Alan Moorhead's histories of early African exploration and colonisation, all of which I also loved. Here's the African side of the story.

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