Monday, September 18, 2006

As The Crow Flies

Book Number 12: As The Crow Flies, by Véronique Tadjo
Country: Côte d'Ivoire

This is officially my first entire novel from Africa (on my world literature tour, at least). It's certainly my first ever novel from the Côte d'Ivoire. I'm definitely delighted I happened across this one by chance, because it it one of the most beautiful books I've ever read. Tadjo's novel is fragments of lives, stories of parts of people, snapshots of existence, all framed in poetic language and exquisite imagery. I ascribe the beauty of Tadjo's writing to the short sentences she uses throughout, conjuring images and understanding and emotion from what is not explicitly written as much as from what is. Take the passage below for example:

Some people die without anyone even realising it. No drums, no fanfare. You open the papers and see their faces:
Here is one with a half smile that makes him look shy. Then, there is the young woman with a radiant smile and shining eyes.
Then all of a sudden, there in the middle of the page, a familiar face, someone you love:

The Divo family
The commander of Abidjan
The permanent adviser on education
The professor in Daloa
The agricultural assistant in Bonoua
The Sassandra family
The Tabou family
announce with deep sorrow the death of their beloved brother, father, grandfather, nephew and brother-in-law. He passed away at CHU of Cocody after a brief illness.

Can anyone fail to empathise with the unknown woman here? Fail to feel her shock and disbelief at this unexpected revelation that pounced without warning from the pages of the paper?

Tadjo writes about he, she, us, we, you, me. She flits from person to person, telling their stories without prejudice, representing their emotions and actions succinctly but with passion. At first I was confused because I was expecting a linear narrative, and it took me a few pages to understand that she was not always the same person, he was not always the same man. The fragmented style makes it hard to get into the book, but themes become apparent the further on one reads. Love is the primary subject Tadjo returns to - as she says, love is a story that we never stop telling, but she touches on many other things, creating links between reader and character, promoting empathy with others, developing understanding of the human heart.


Dorothy W. said...

I've never heard of her -- unfortunately. The book sounds very interesting.

Stefanie said...

Sounds like a wonderful book.