Category: Fatou Diome

Book review – The Belly of The Atlantic – Fatou Diome

“The urge to return to the source is irresitable, for it’s reassuring to think that life is easier to grasp in the place where it puts down its roots. And yet, for me, returning is the same as leaving. I go home as a tourist in my own country, for I have become the other for the people I continue to call my family.”

Having read the witty but also bleak books about the life of Algeria immigrants in the Parisian suburbs by Faiza Guene this book echoed those themes but came from a slightly different angle.

This story was being told by a narrator based in France but it concentrated on the dreams of her younger brother and his Senegalese friends who dreamed of living in France. Despite what they were told by those who knew what really happens they were blind to the racism and poverty waiting for them. They looked at African football stars playing in France and thought they could follow in their footsteps.

For the narrator living in France having to work as a cleaner just to make a living and constantly being subject to racism and government bureaucracy designed to make life difficult the position was even harder.

She was not accepted in France but neither was she at home anymore in Africa. There the expectations were that she would be rich, share her success and allow others to fly away to a better life on her coat tails.

There are some very clever lines in this book that stay with you and must have made the author smile as they went down on the page. But there is also a fair amount of repetition about the dangers of dreaming of a better life outside Africa. The story of the footballer who failed to make the grade and was abused and managed to finally get home a broken man is one that stays with you but that theme is then underlined again and again.

But if a book is there to make you think, see the world from a different perspective, then this succeeds because it makes you wonder just what the impact of the likes of Drogba, the Chelsea playing striker, have been on the kids dreaming of a better life back home in his native Africa.