He collapsed at the feet of Hassalani the merchant, who had just returned from the mosque. He stirred the whole neighborhood, the healer arrived, then the bonesetter. No one knew where he came from, but because he had white skin, and we are in Zanzibar, in 1899, he was called the European, “mzunga”, a body without a name. His name is Martin Pearce. Stripped in the desert by his guides, this English writer owes his life to the family of Hassalani.
And, even if the British consul who then accommodated him did not see the point, he wanted to return to these modest people to thank them. In the house that saw her reborn, Pearce’s gaze meets Rehana’s. And everything is turned upside down. From this budding love between the sister of a native shopkeeper and the British intellectual, two worlds merge that should never have crossed. Three generations later, in the same place, Jehana, the granddaughter of this scandalous couple in Zanzibar’s memory, experiences an impossible passion with the eldest of a model family …
Today, his little brother still wonders how he is going to be able to tell all this in the book he is writing far from his family and his island. From England, where his brilliant studies led in the early sixties (the young Zanzibarite arriving in London is one of the most poignant passages), Rashid is renewing the threads of the past. “It’s a story about all of us. She says that every story contains many more and that they do not belong to us but merge with the vagaries of our time, that they take hold of us and bind us forever. ”
It is impossible to stay outside this “us” by discovering the successive stories of each of the protagonists: the variety of marvelously embodied points of view gives vastness and richness to this fresco which mixes eras, places, historical conditions, mentalities, and the daily life of families. . Far from folklore, into life. Winner of the RFI Witness of the World Prize for Near the Sea, his first novel translated into French, Abdulrazak Gurnah is decidedly a storyteller whom we cannot resist: we must leave with him for Zanzibar, experience happiness, heartbreak and hope in this beautiful and great romance of love and exile.