cover of book

Passage of Tears
by Abdourahman A. Waberi
translated by David Ball and Nicole Ball
Seagull Books, 2018
Cloth: 978-0-85742-021-3 | eISBN: 978-0-85742-057-2 | Paper: 978-0-85742-531-7
Library of Congress Classification MLCS 2012/01655 (P)

Djibouti, a hot, impoverished little country on the Horn of Africa, is a place of great strategic importance, for off its coast lies a crucial passage for the world’s oil. In this novel by Abdourahman A. Waberi, Djibril, a young Djiboutian voluntarily exiled in Montreal, returns to his native land to prepare a report for an American economic intelligence firm. Meanwhile, a shadowy, threatening figure imprisoned in an island cell seems to know Djibril’s every move. He takes dictation from his preaching cellmate known as his “Venerable Master,” but as the words are put on the page, a completely different text appears—the life of Walter Benjamin, Djibril’s favorite author.


Passage of Tears cleverly mixes many genres and forms of writing—spy novel, political thriller, diary (replete with childhood memories), travel notebook, legends, parables, incantations, and prayers. Djibril’s reminiscences provide a sense of Djibouti’s past and its people, while a satire of Muslim fundamentalism is unwittingly delivered through the other Djiboutian voice. Waberi’s inventive parody is a lesson in tolerance, while his poetic observations reveal his love and concern for his homeland.


Praise for the French Edition


“Disguised as a political thriller, Passage of Tears is above all a great novel of childhood, murderous identities, and exile.”—Le Monde des Livres


“A gripping book, burning with urgency and tension.”—Télérama.

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