Monday, 3 May 2021

Little Brother by Ibrahima Balde and Amets Arzallus Antia


Little Brother: an odyssey to Europe by Ibrahima Balde and Amets Arzallus Antia 
First published in Basque as Miñan by Susa in 2019. English language translation by Timberlake Wertenbaker published by Scribe on the 15th April 2021.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A heartbreaking and magnificent account of a poor and illiterate young West African’s odysssey.

Ibrahima, whose family live in a village in the West African country of Guinea, helps his father sell shoes at a street stall in the capital, Conakry. At the sudden death of his father, he becomes the head of the family and picks up various skills, always alone and away from home, although his dream is to be a truck driver in his country.

But when his little brother, Alhassane, suddenly disappears, heading for Europe in a bid to earn money for the family, Ibrahima leaves everything behind to try to find him and convince him to go back to their village and continue his education. In an epic journey, Ibrahima risks his life many times searching for his little brother.

Each waystation that Ibrahima passes through takes him to another world, with different customs, other languages, other landscapes, other currencies, and new challenges to overcome. His willpower is astonishing, and the friendship and generosity of strangers he encounters on the way help him to keep going.

After enduring many trials and tribulations, he learns of Alhassane’s fate. Unable to return home, he embarks on the journey to Europe himself.

Little Brother is a testimonial account that gives a voice, heart, and soul, and flesh and bones to the seemingly nameless masses of people struggling and dying, trying only to achieve a better life for themselves and their families.

Little Brother is a beautifully haunting account of Ibrahima Balde's lengthy journey in search of his brother, one which unintentionally led to him boarding an overcrowded boat from Algeria to Italy when he found himself unable to return home to his mother and sisters. What made this book such a unique voice in the genre of migrant memoirs is Basque poet Amets Arzallus Antia's prose style which I thought Timberlake Wertenbaker has so effectively captured in this English translation. Despite Balde's words having had to pass through two other minds and languages in order to reach me, I felt as though I was really listening to him speak as I read this book.

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Ibrahima Balde and Amets Arzallus Antia / Biography and memoir / Books from Guinea and the Basque Country

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