(Sabine Wespieser Éditeur, 172 pages, 2019)
*** LONGLISTED FOR THE 2019 PRIX GONCOURT, Prix Jean Giono and
prix andre malraux ***
In Sabratha, off the Libyan coast, the supervisors create a disturbance in the female warehouse. Among those they treat harshly are Chochana, a Nigerian woman, and Semhar, and Eritrean one. The two met each other there in the warehouse after months of wandering the roads of the continent. Ever since the two left their motherlands, they have worked to gather a large enough sum of money that could satisfy the smuggler’s greed. Tonight, they finally embark on their journey.
A little earlier, in Tripoli, elegantly dressed Syrian families board air-conditioned minibuses. For the past four weeks, Dima, her husband, and their two little girls have waited to depart for Lampedusa.
These women with such vastly different life trajectories – Dima, the rich woman traveling on the bridge, and Chochana and Semhar in the hold – all pass the point of no return and find themselves aboard a fishing boat united by the same hope for a new life in Europe.
In her Igbo Jewish community, Chochana dreamt of becoming a lawyer before drought forced her to leave her country; Semhar, deserted the national service after being enlisted, like all young Eritreans, whose service duration depends on the goodwill of the dictator; as for Dima, trapped in the cellars of war-torn Aleppo, she quickly understood that the sweetness and ease of her past existence were lost forever.
On the raft of luck, the energy and temperament of the three protagonists – that the writer wraps with humor and a manifesto of empathy – will be essential support and assistance through an apocalyptic journey.
Inspired by the tragedy of a stowaway ship saved by the oil tanker Torm Lotte in the summer of 2014, Louis-Philippe Dalembert, through the portraits of three magnificent women, startlingly confront us with the human condition in a wide fresco of migration and exile.
Born in Port-au-Prince, Louis-Philippe Dalembert has published news, poetry, essays and novels in both France and Haiti since 1993. The last work to date, Avant que les ombres s’effacent, published in March 2017 with Sabine Wespieser éditeur, won the prix Orange du Livre and the prix France Bleu/Page des libraries.