Synopses & Reviews
One of the first literary works to portray Djiboutians from their own point of view, The Land without Shadows is a collection of seventeen short stories. The author, Abdourahman A. Waberi, one of a handful of francophone writers of fiction to have emerged in the twentieth century from the confetti-sized state of Djibouti, has already won international recognition and prizes in African literature for his stories and novel. Because his writing is linked to immigration and exile, his native Djibouti occupies center stage in his work. Drawing on the Somali/Djiboutian oral tradition to weave pieces of legend, proverbs, music, poetry, and history together with references to writers as diverse as Soyinka, Shakespeare, Djebar, Baudelaire, Cesaire, Waugh, Senghor, and Beckett, Waberi succeeds in bringing his country into a context that reaches well beyond the Horn of Africa.
Originally published in France in 1994 as Le Pays sans ombre, this newly translated collection presents stories about the precolonial and colonial past of Djibouti alongside those set in the postcolonial era. With irony and humor, these short stories portray madmen, poets, artists, French colonists, pseudointellectuals, young women, aspiring politicians, famished refugees, khat chewers, nomads struggling to survive in Djibouti's ruthless natural environment, or tramps living (and dying) in Balbala, the shantytown that stretches to the south of the capital. Waberi's complex web of allusions locates his tales at an intersection between history and ethnography, politics and literature. While written in a narrative prose, these stories nevertheless call on an indigenous literary tradition that elevates poetry to the highest standing.
By juxtaposing the present with the past, the individual with the collective, the colonized with the colonizer, the local with the global, The Land without Shadows composes an image of Djibouti that is at times both kaleidoscopic and cinematographic. Here the art of the short story offers partial but brilliantly illuminated scenes of the Djiboutian urban and rural landscape, its people, and its history.
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“Novelist Waberi, the best-known contemporary writer from the East African nation of Djibouti, evokes ‘an entire life in the echo of my tongue’ in his first collection of poems. His terse sequences incorporate the region’s recent troubles with civil wars and Islamic extremists along with ancient fable and history. The Koranic story of Bilal recurs as a myth of national origin; the poet asks us to ‘let nomadic words live,’ with ‘oral ancestors’ shadow/ resisting harsh winters.’ Sometimes Waberi returns to the landscape: ‘my tree the aloe/ my flower the crack in the cactus/ my river none in my land.’ But his verse, in its trim stanzas and its thin lists, insists on its modernity too.”
In this first collection of poetry by critically acclaimed writer Abdourahman A. Waberi, we the readers can drink in Djiboutis compelling landscapedesert furrows of fire, mute foliage of cactus, yellow chameleon skyto better understand this tiny country strategically located in the Horn of Africa. Waberis poems take us to spaces where nomadic words livein exile, in the muezzins call, in a place where morning dew is sucked up by the eye of the sunblack often, pink from time to time.
Waberis voice is intelligent as well as ironic, and always appealing. He strongly condemns the civil wars that have plagued the East African region. His is a message of tolerance, and we find in this compact volume, living side by side, a rosary for the treasures of Timbuktu, destroyed by Islamic extremists, and a poem dedicated to Edmond Jabès, the Jewish writer and poet born in Cairo.
Few of us have had the opportunity to visit Djibouti, the small crook of a country strategically located in the Horn of Africa, which makes The Nomads, My Brothers, Go Out to Drink from the Big Dipper
all the more seductive. In his first collection of poetry, the critically acclaimed writer Abdourahman A. Waberi writes passionately about his countrys landscape, drawing for us pictures of desert furrows of fire” and a yellow chameleon sky.” Waberis poems take us to unexpected spacesin exile, in the muezzins call, and where morning dew is sucked up by the eye of the sunblack often, pink from time to time.”
Translated by Nancy Naomi Carlson, Waberis voice is intelligent, at times ironic, and always appealing. His poems strongly condemn the civil wars that have plagued East Africa and advocate tolerance and peace. In this compact volume, such ideas live side by side as a rosary for the treasures of Timbuktu, destroyed by Islamic extremists, and a poem dedicated to Edmond Jabès, the Jewish writer and poet born in Cairo.
With Waberi, the juxtapositionssurprising, provocative, and originalform a good part of the thrill themselves.”Words Without Borders
About the Author
Abdourahman A. Waberi is a novelist, essayist, poet, and professor of literature at George Washington University. He is the author of The Land without Shadows, In the United States of Africa, and Passage of Tears, the last also published by Seagull Books.Nancy Naomi Carlson is an award-winning author and translator.
Table of Contents
The Way of Simplicity
Caravan of Words
Wind is a Calligrapher
Brief Discourse in the Style of Edmond Jabés
Canvas with Ochre and Foam
The Elixir of Exile
After the Rain
A Sky Chart
Lament of the Lame Herdsman
Japanese Cherry Tree
Elegy for a Fly
White Thread, Black Thread
Rosary for Timbuktu