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Small Country by Gaël Faye
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Small Country

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Small Country by Gaël Faye
Paperback $15.00
Mar 05, 2019 | ISBN 9781524759889

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    Mar 05, 2019 | ISBN 9781524759889

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  • Jun 05, 2018 | ISBN 9781524759896

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  • Jun 05, 2018 | ISBN 9780525633594

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*Longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction*
*TIME Magazine Best Summer Books 2018*

Unforgettable… Gaël Faye’s talent is breathtaking; no country that can give the world a writer like him should be ever be called small.” – Imbolo Mbue, author of Behold the Dreamers
An evocative portrait of what it means to lose one’s freedom and innocence… He is a writer of great promise and grace.” – Chigozie Obioma, author of The Fishermen

Luminous… This is a book that demanded to be written, not only to mark the lives lost in Burundi and Rwanda, but also to show the way in which violence can take hold of a nation. With a light touch, Faye dramatises the terrible nostalgia of having lost not only a childhood but also a whole world to war.” — Nadifa Mohamed, Guardian (UK)
Personal and intimate… Gaël Faye has evoked the darkest pages of contemporary Africa without tipping into pathos.” – Alain Mabanckou, author of Broken Glass

 “A masterpiece in bringing home the first-hand realities of war… heart-wrenching and beautiful and distressingly authentic. Everyone should read it.” – The Pool

“A stirring and graceful tale of stolen innocence and fragmented identity. Hopeful, raw and deeply human, it is a modern classic in the making.” – France Today

Vividly translated by Ardizzone, this powerful tale, a best-seller overseas, presents a world where there are no easy demarcations of good and evil, sane and insane, or pure and corrupted, as Faye focuses not on offering judgement but rather on capturing the full impact of social and political disintegration.” – Booklist, Starred Review

Precise and potentdeeply affecting… a heartrending portrait of the end of childhood.” – Publishers Weekly

“The death of innocence seen through the eyes of Gabriel, our beguiling 11-year-old narrator, is at the heart of this gorgeous first novel… Faye eloquently speaks to the untenable choices, among love of country, family, or survival, that victims in conflict zones are forced to make.” – Library Journal

“Gaël Faye is a revelation. Small Country is a luminous and poignant novel about childhood, war, exile and identitythis is literature at its most powerful.” – Le Parisien Magazine
“This beautiful coming-of-age novel expresses a harrowing yearning for kindness and harmony. The result is a vision of the world – not political, but poetic – that attempts a balancing act between both horror and wonder.” – Le Figaro

“In the summer months, there are two categories of books: those we take on holiday and leave behind in the sand, and those that make their mark on us for lifeSmall Country by Gaël Faye is firmly part of the latter category” – Le Matin Dimanche

A literary force to be reckoned with.” – Le Point

Author Q&A

Q. What inspired Small Country? Where did the idea for the story originate?
A. My inspiration came from a frustration: I wrote a song called “L’ennui des après-midi sans fin” (“boredom of the endless afternoon”) in my first album, Pili Pili sur un croissant au beurre, which was about those days before the civil war in Burundi when life was banal and ordinary. The song was too short a format to express all I wanted to say, so I decided to write this story of childhood in a small country of central Africa.
Q. As Gaby’s world begins to fracture, fault lines appearing among his family and his friends, he anchors himself in part by writing letters to his French pen pal, Laure, on whom he projects a great deal of hope. His tender letters brim with dreams for the future, for instance: “When I grow up I want to be a mechanic, so nothing ever stays broken in my life.” You write beautifully and convincingly from Gaby’s perspective. How did you access his young voice and render his wisdom so powerfully?
A. Gabriel lives on the border of different worlds: between Africans and Europeans, black and white skins, Hutu and Tutsi, childhood and adulthood, urban and rural, domestic life and street experiences, peace and war. . . . And this instability generated a unique perspective on the world around him. I created the system of letters so my readers could hear Gabriel’s voice. He is an interior child with a poetic view on life, and to find a convincingly childlike voice, I tried to find a balance between philosophical thoughts and inexperience, and between credulity and the naïveté of childhood.
Q. The novel opens in Burundi in 1992, with young Gaby’s father explaining the socio-political strife surrounding their family’s peaceful oasis. Gaby will soon find his innocence irreversibly punctured, first by his parents’ separation and then by the brutal civil war and genocide his father had attempted to explain. Can you let us know a bit more about the political and historical context behind the novel?
A. The first democratic election took place in Burundi in 1993 with the election of Melchior Ndadaye. Only three months after the election, Ndadaye was killed by the army during a military coup, and a civil war ensued. The ethnic conflict between Hutu and Tutsi was responsible for the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives during the ten years of the civil war (1993–2003). The concept of ethnicities in Burundi and Rwanda is a colonial creation based on physical differences and nineteenth-century racist theories of inequality of men and races. And those theories led to the war in Burundi and to the genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda.
Q. You enjoy a very successful career as a hip-hop artist in France and recently won a Victoires de la Musique (the French equivalent of a Grammy). Can you discuss your creative impulse in general? How does your approach to music differ from your approach to fiction? How do you gauge your audience’s response, which seems to be externalized with music and yet so interior with fiction?
A. I started to write poetry when I was thirteen during the civil war in Burundi. A few years later, I transformed my poems into songs. Poetry is my first passion. I’m interested in the sound of the words and the pace of the language. Creating a song is more to build sound and rhythm, while fiction introduces the challenge of building a world from scratch. It seems like two different methods, but for me it ends up as the same impulse.

Q. What are you working on now?
A. I’m working on different projects: cinema screenplays, a new album record between France and Rwanda, and a novel about a famous rock star!
Q. What do you hope your readers will take away from Small Country?
A. Small Country is a sensitive exploration of the life of a human being who has had to run away from his land, his family, and his friends. . . . Every day in our world, we hear the terms “migrants” and “refugees,” but we forget that behind these words, there are names, dreams, and voices. This novel is a long poem about one of those kids, from a distant conflict, who finds his own words to tell his name and his story. And I hope also that the readers can discover Burundi because this is one of the first novels to talk about this small and relatively unknown country.

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