Mauritius is an island country off the east coast of Africa where the majority of the population are of Indian origin, were brought there by the British colonists, and now speak primarily a French based creole. (It was a French colony before it became a British one.) So, it’s an interesting place. It was also the home of the Dodo, before it was driven extinct.
The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah (translated from the French by Geoffrey Strachan) tells the story of the friendship between Raj, a Mauritian boy, and David, a Jewish boy living in an internment camp on the island. The book begins with Raj as an old man, so we know from the beginning that David died at the age of 10. Raj has never really gotten over his death. In fact, at the age of 70, he goes to visit David’s grave for the first time and there he relates the story of their friendship.
Their friendship is beautiful and sad. It is also brief enough that you might not think that they would have time to form such a lasting connection. But everything is set up in a way that their friendship makes perfect sense.
Before I started the book-from-every-country project, I never kept a list of books to read. I just read whatever happened to catch my attention at the library. Now, I do have a ‘TBR’ over on Goodreads. I don’t list everything there, but most of the books for this project end up on that list plus other random books that I come across are there. I’m pretty good about keeping the list to a reasonable length (though I did expand past my original intended limit of 100 books and had to increase it to 150…). What I recently realized though is that I tend to read the books that I’ve recently added to the list, but not the books back at the beginning. There are books there that have been languishing since 2012.
So for this year, I’m going to make an effort to either read those books back at the beginning of the list or else decide that I no longer want to read them. That means I will probably have a spate of African books since when I first set up that list on Goodreads I was hunting down ideas for books from African countries. It also means that I’ll be tackling some intimidating chunksters of books that in theory I want to read, but in practice I’ve been avoiding.
One is The Wizard of the Crow by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o which clocks in at 768 pages. I’ve already read other Kenyan books, but I’ve kept this one on the list because I’ve heard such good things about it and also because he originally wrote it in Gikuyu and there just aren’t that many books out there that have been translated from African languages. The other is Dancing in the Glory of Monsters by Jason Stearns which is only 400 pages long, but will be tough reading, since it’s a history of the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Time for some challenging (but hopefully rewarding) reading!