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Tour d'Afrique: Africa A-Z > Visiting Djibouti in July & Aug!

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message 1: by Muphyn (last edited May 22, 2010 06:25PM) (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments Hello everyone,

it's really great to see you all enjoying the book club and discussing the bi-monthly reads!! I'm really excited about even though I don't often get the chance to join in...

In July, we're moving on to the next letter... "D" and we'll start with Djibouti! Here are some ideas for books for the July & August shared book read:

* Charles Nicholl Somebody Else: Arthur Rimbaud in Africa 1880-91
* Abdourahman Waberi In the United States of Africa

Feel free to post your ideas and suggestions within the next two weeks. As usual, we'll then vote on the most popular one.

Muphyn


message 2: by Mahriana (new)

Mahriana Rofheart | 84 comments Ooh, I have been meaning to read the Waberi. Very exciting!

I tried to search around for more possibilities, but I didn't have much luck, at least not for more novelists from Djibouti. The University of Western Australia has a marvelous website listing female writers from Africa, mostly, but not only, those who write in French. The authors they have listed when I searched for Djibouti do not appear to have books that have been translated or are widely available, unfortunately.


message 3: by Wendy (new)

Wendy (wendywoo) | 82 comments The Waberi book does look good -- can't wait to start the voting :-)


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

I have and haven't yet read Waberi, so I'll hope for him.


message 5: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 543 comments I have another suggestion -
Mainly because I attempted to read The United States of Africa - earlier this year and could not get past the first chapter - it just did not tell a good story and was too disjointed. I was excited based on the premise of the book and that Perival Everett wrote the forward, but it just did not work for him.

So I am suggesting another book by Waberi:
The Land Without Shadows by Abdourahman A. Waberi

One of the first literary works to portray Djiboutians from their own point of view, The Land without Shadows is a collection of seventeen short stories. The author, Abdourahman A. Waberi, one of a handful of francophone writers of fiction to have emerged in the twentieth century from the "confetti-sized state" of Djibouti, has already won international recognition and prizes in African literature for his stories and novel. Because his writing is linked to immigration and exile, his native Djibouti occupies center stage in his work. Drawing on the Somali/Djiboutian oral tradition to weave pieces of legend, proverbs, music, poetry, and history together with references to writers as diverse as Soyinka, Shakespeare, Djebar, Baudelaire, Césaire, Waugh, Senghor, and Beckett, Waberi succeeds in bringing his country into a context that reaches well beyond the Horn of Africa.
Originally published in France in 1994 as Le Pays sans ombre, this newly translated collection presents stories about the precolonial and colonial past of Djibouti alongside those set in the postcolonial era. With irony and humor, these short stories portray madmen, poets, artists, French colonists, pseudointellectuals, young women, aspiring politicians, famished refugees, khat chewers, nomads struggling to survive in Djibouti's ruthless natural environment, or tramps living (and dying) in Balbala, the shantytown that stretches to the south of the capital. Waberi's complex web of allusions locates his tales at an intersection between history and ethnography, politics and literature. While written in a narrative prose, these stories nevertheless call on an indigenous literary tradition that elevates poetry to the highest standing.

By juxtaposing the present with the past, the individual with the collective, the colonized with the colonizer, the local with the global, The Land without Shadows composes an image of Djibouti that is at times both kaleidoscopic and cinematographic. Here the art of the short story offers partial but brilliantly illuminated scenes of the Djiboutian urban and rural landscape, its people, and its history


message 6: by LDB (new)

LDB | 66 comments While the United States of Africa sounds interesting, I like the suggestion of the Land without Shadows since it takes place in Djibouti. I don't know of any books, or have found any, that I could suggest for the Djibouti read. Looks like one of Waberi's books may be our best bet.


message 7: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
If people don't mind, I'm going to suggest some old travel literature and/or novels inspired by travels to the region. so they might not be 100% Djibouti because Djibouti is such a tiny slice of a part of the Horn and they will have been written by foreigners/visitors/colonial figures.

Anyway, apparently Evelyn Waugh traveled to the region as a correspondent, beginning his journey in Djibouti and ending in Addis Ababa. He wrote Scoop based on that trip. Then there is Wilfred Thesiger, who did not think highly of Waugh, which is funny to me, but Thesiger was born in Addis Ababa and traveled widely in the Horn and in Arabia. He wrote The Danakil Diary: Journeys Through Abyssinia, 1930-1934. Most of the Danikil Desert is located in the contemporary boundaries of Djibouti although it spills over into Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Anyway, I thought we should have some more choices for our poll, so i've been digging.


message 8: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
oh...i will try to get my hands on this Danakil book at work to see how much of it is about what became Djibouti and how much of it is Ethiopia. We might want to save it for the Ethiopia poll.


message 9: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
ugh. Djibouti is soooooooooo tiny. and ethiopia is sooooo huge. so even though the Danakil Desert takes up most of Djibouti, most of that desert is located in ethiopia and eritrea.

please forgive my stream of consciousness posting.

i've also tried looking for stuff under "French Somaliland" and "French Territory of the Afars and Issas." but I haven't had any luck yet.


message 10: by Muphyn (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments Thanks heaps for digging, Marieke!! I think we could still include "The Danakil Diary" in the Djibouti selection b/c I'm sure we'll find plenty to read on Ethiopia! And it would give us a few more choices.


message 11: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
ugh. i was just writing and my computer shut down after it updated (thanks, workplace during lunch!). oh well. i'll just recap and say that my supervisor is a specialist in the Horn, especially Ethiopia. he gave me a couple of reference books to look at and i've found a few more possibilities to consider.
they are:

Dead Men Do Tell Tales: A 1933 Archeological Expedition into Abyssinia

The Periplus of the Erythræan sea

and Remote People: A Report from Ethiopia & British Africa 1930-31 which can be found in various compilations (it's 126 pages)and includes his impressions of Djibouti on his way to and from Addis Ababa for Haile Selassie's coronation in 1930.

If only all the writing coming out of the area was being translated from Somali and French into English. :(


message 12: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 660 comments I've read Thesiger's Arabian Sandsand really enjoyed it, so I may try for two Djibouti books, one by him and one by Waberi. I have a suspicion that Thesiger may not have felt Waugh was respectful enough toward the people of Africa, but that's just a suspicion, based on what I've read by each of them.


message 13: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
I also read Arabian Sands and loved it. I'm guessing you're right on the money re: thesiger's feelings about Waugh. In fact, based in the skimmings I did about Waugh's time in and reportage from Djibouti and Addis Ababa, he irked a number of people. I think maybe he was being a bit of a cowboy journalist.


message 14: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Or, maybe he poked fun at the colonials? I haven't read anything by Waugh except brideshead revisited so I don't know what his journalist in Africa tone might be. I did get scoop so maybe soon I'll find out.

I started danakil diary to get a sense of it's readability and like Arabian sands, it's great.


message 15: by Wendy (new)

Wendy (wendywoo) | 82 comments http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A010746...

In case anyone is interested in some stats on Djibouti I'm attaching a link. I feel really dumb -- I didn't even know Djibouti was a country. This link says it's the size of Massachusetts. Can't wait to learn more about it as this will be (no pun intended) undiscovered territory for me :-)


message 16: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 543 comments Wendy -

Thanks for sharing. That is why we are here - to learn and enjoy ourselves.

That is why I am hoping that we read The Land Without Shadows by Waberi as with Djibouti I am interested in reading about what life is like for the people. And then I can move on to the thoughts of what others have to say about the country and region.


message 17: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
I totally agree with Beverly. I also want to read something by someone from Djibouti, but since I know so little about the country, i'll likely read more than one thing.
also I have a hard time with short stories...I have to read a collection over a long period of time, usually, so if we end up choosing The Land Without Shadows, i may not get to every story in our time frame, but that's okay with me.


message 18: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
I've had this idea for awhile but haven't posted about it yet...but i'm wondering what others think: I want to add FOOD to our travels. For instance, I have been searching for recipes for dishes from Djibouti and came across this:
http://myhungrytum.com/2010/04/12/sko...
i thought it would be fun to find and share recipes for our countries as we travel through and perhaps some of us will actually try to make them and let each other know how they turned out.
anyone game? separate thread?


message 19: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 660 comments Food is always a good idea. And I think it deserves its own thread.


message 20: by Nina (new)

Nina Chachu | 206 comments Without sounding boring, I would second Marieke's suggestion and Andrea's second of a Food thread. And just to wet your appetites, do take a look at http://www.betumiblog.blogspot.com/ which is a blog, tied in with a website, about African food (with some emphasis on Ghana, I do have to admit)


message 21: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 543 comments Thanks for sharing - that is a cool site. And adding the food to our learning is wonderful


message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

I've ordered The Land Without Shadows just in case.

On another note, one of my local independent bookstores now has a decent selection of used books from CARF and Heinemann--perhaps someone sold a collection. I recall that people liked Bessie Head, and the store has several. Is there one you recommend?


message 23: by Nina (last edited May 26, 2010 01:13PM) (new)

Nina Chachu | 206 comments Re Bessie Head: the group read

When Rain Clouds Gather which is pretty good. Try Maru or A Question of Power. Her life was pretty amazing.


message 24: by Muphyn (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments Marieke wrote: "I've had this idea for awhile but haven't posted about it yet...but i'm wondering what others think: I want to add FOOD to our travels. For instance, I have been searching for recipes for dishes fr..."

Brilliant idea! Love it!! Yes, do set up a different thread for discussing food and recipes. Love trying out new things.


message 25: by Muphyn (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments I'll probably set up a poll on the weekend so let me know if you have any other thoughts re. Djibouti. We can always add items to the poll later though.


message 26: by Wendy (new)

Wendy (wendywoo) | 82 comments I love the Food thread idea. I'm a lazy cook and probably won't make the recipes, but I love learning about the different types of food and flavor combinations that are part of difference cultures. I'm dying to eat Persian food after reading "Libpstick Jihad" b/c she did such an amazing job describing the food in that book. Great idea Marieke!


message 27: by Muphyn (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments I've set up the poll, open til Sunday, June 13. If you want to have a say in the next book, make sure you cast your vote.


message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

My copy of The Land without Shadows arrived today. It looks more accessible than In the United States of Africa.


message 29: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 543 comments Shoshanapnw wrote: "My copy of The Land without Shadows arrived today. It looks more accessible than In the United States of Africa."

Me too
I have not gotten a chance to flip through the pages yet.


message 30: by [deleted user] (new)

Y'know, I'm a fool. I've been thinking of my Cote d'Ivore book, not Waberi. I've read Waberi. I agree that In the United States of Africa wouldn't be a great choice, especially if people found African Psycho difficult.


message 31: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 543 comments Shoshanapnw wrote: "Y'know, I'm a fool. I've been thinking of my Cote d'Ivore book, not Waberi. I've read Waberi. I agree that In the United States of Africa wouldn't be a great choice, especially if people found Afri..."

No, you are not :)
Yes, The United States of Africa was not a good read for me and yes, in some ways reminds me of African Pyscho.


message 32: by Alex (last edited Jun 07, 2010 09:36AM) (new)

Alex Love the food thread idea! My wife and I fool around with Ethiopian cooking sometimes, although we're not equipped to make our own injera.

We'd probably participate in experimentation, as long as we can find vegetarian recipes. Not for me, of course, I'm a Real American Who Eats Meat. (High five!) For my lame hippie wife. :)


message 33: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (last edited Jun 10, 2010 07:19AM) (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Apologies, i have been slow about setting up the Food Thread but will do it shortly...

meanwhile, I just ran across this news article about very current affairs in Djibouti.


message 34: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 660 comments Interesting article. It sounds like Djibouti has some of the same problems as other countries in the region, but in an intense form. I'm eager to learn more about this area.


message 35: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Indeed. I was totally unaware of djibouti's fragility...


message 36: by LDB (new)

LDB | 66 comments Thanks for sharing this article. I had no idea what was going on there... need to re-think my morning newspaper reading (WSJ)?


message 37: by Wendy (new)

Wendy (wendywoo) | 82 comments Wow -- great article. 60% unemployment!!!! No wonder there is instability. Thanks for posting Marieke :-)


message 38: by Muphyn (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments Sorry, I've been a bit behind announcing the winner of the July & August Djibouti travel tour...

The winner is Abdourahman Waberi's "The Land Without Shadows"!!

Happy reading, and who knows, I might even join you. ;)


message 39: by Mahriana (last edited Jun 17, 2010 03:54PM) (new)

Mahriana Rofheart | 84 comments Thanks Muphyn, you totally read my mind. :) Not ten minutes ago, I was just checking the poll and that it was closed to see if Waberi's Land Without Shadows was indeed the winner.


message 40: by LDB (new)

LDB | 66 comments I am headed off to Europe and plan to pick the book up in French while in Paris. Looking forward to discussing it with everyone!


message 41: by Alex (new)

Alex Have fun in Europe! Jealous!

Semi-randomly, I recently read Seven Ages of Paris and really dug it.


message 42: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 660 comments Okay, I don't know where to post this, but Thesiger has been mentioned here, so.... I have been reading up on William Sheppard, the missionary mentioned in King Leopold's Ghost. Apparently, Wilfred Thesiger was sent to Congo as the British vice-consul to investigate alleged abuses in 1908. That would be the same Wilfred Thesiger, I would think. He wrote a scathing report that apparently contributed to the Belgian trading company suing Sheppard and his fellow missionary, Morrison, for libel. Fascinating interconnection there.


message 43: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Yes, thesiger was mentioned in this thread because of his danakil diary. But 1908 struck me as too early for him to be traveling to the Congo so I double-checked...he was born in 1910. However, his father was also named Wilfred...
:D
does a report of his findings exist?


message 44: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Wilfred the Younger's obituary is quite fascinating.


message 45: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 660 comments Oh darn, it did sound too good to be true. Your dates are more logical. I'll check on whether it's possible to get his report.


message 46: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 660 comments My copy of "Land Without Shadows" came in to the library today, but now I will have to wait until after the holiday weekend (US Independence Day) to pick it up. Anticipation!


message 47: by Mahriana (new)

Mahriana Rofheart | 84 comments I ordered the french Land Without Shadows through my boyfriend's school's library quite a while ago, and it has yet to come in. sigh. where is it??


message 48: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
margaine wrote: "I ordered the french Land Without Shadows through my boyfriend's school's library quite a while ago, and it has yet to come in. sigh. where is it??"
It would be ridiculously absurd if someone from GAR has it. I promise it's not me! I have an english version.


message 49: by Mahriana (new)

Mahriana Rofheart | 84 comments Marieke wrote:
It would be ridiculously absur..."


heehee. I hope there's enough copies in all the university libraries in the US to go around . . . but you never know!


message 50: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 660 comments Our public library is about two miles from the Michigan State University library. When the public library borrows a book from the university for me, it usually takes about two weeks for the book to get from MSU to our library. It would come from the UK faster!


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