Book picks similar to
Pictures of a Dying Man by Agymah Kamau


barbados
reading-the-world
a-year-of-reading-the-world
fiction

The Last Will & Testament of Senhor da Silva Araújo


Germano Almeida - 1988
    Everyone in Cape Verde knows Señor da Silva. Successful entrepreneur, owner of the island's first automobile, a most serious, upright, and self-made businessman, Señor da Silva is the local success story. Born an orphan, he never married, he never splurged; one good suit was good enough for him; and he never wandered from the straight and narrow. Or so everyone thought. But when Señor da Silva's 387-page Last Will and Testament is read aloud; a marathon task on a hot afternoon which exhausts reader after reader; there's eye-opening news, and not just for the smug nephew so certain of inheriting all Señor da Silva's property. With his will, Señor da Silva leaves a memoir that is a touching web of elaborate self-deceptions. He desired so ardently to prosper, to be taken seriously, to join (perhaps, if they'll have him) the exclusive Grémio country club, and, most of all, to be a good man. And yet, shady deals, twists of fate, an illegitimate child: such is the lot of poor, self-critical Señor da Silva. A bit like Calvino's Mr. Palomar in his attention to protocol and in his terror of life's passions; a bit like Svevo's Zeno (a little pompous, a little old-fashioned, and often hapless), Señor da Silva moves along a deliciously blurry line between farce and tragedy: a self-important buffoon becomes a fully human, even tragic, figure in the arc of this hilarious and touching novel - translated into Spanish, German, French, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, and now, at last, English.

The Circle of Karma


Kunzang Choden - 2005
    Written in English, the novel tells the story of Tsomo, a young Bhutanese woman who embarks on the difficult and lonely journey of life. Tsomo's travels, which begin after her mother's death, take her away from her family, and leads her across Bhutan and into India. All the while, Tsomo seeks to find herself and a life partner, and grows as a person and a woman. The text of this unusual work is enriched by detailed descriptions of ritual life in Bhutan. The text of this unusual work is enriched by detailed descriptions of ritual life in Bhutan. The novel weaves a complex tapestry of life from a relatively unknown part of the world.

Ali and Nino


Kurban Said - 1937
    Zhivago and Romeo and Juliet.  Its mysterious author was recently the subject of a feature article in the New Yorker, which has inspired a forthcoming biography. Out of print for nearly three decades until the hardcover re-release last year, Ali and Nino is Kurban Said's masterpiece. It is a captivating novel as evocative of the exotic desert landscape as it is of the passion between two people pulled apart by culture, religion, and war.It is the eve of World War I in Baku, Azerbaijan, a city on the edge of the Caspian Sea, poised precariously between east and west.  Ali Khan Shirvanshir, a Muslim schoolboy from a proud, aristocratic family, has fallen in love with the beautiful and enigmatic Nino Kipiani, a Christian girl with distinctly European sensibilities.   To be together they must overcome blood feud and scandal, attempt a daring horseback rescue, and travel from the bustling street of oil-boom Baku, through starkly beautiful deserts and remote mountain villages, to the opulent palace of Ali's uncle in neighboring Persia.  Ultimately the lovers are drawn back to Baku, but when war threatens their future, Ali is forced to choose between his loyalty to the beliefs of his Asian ancestors and his profound devotion to Nino.  Combining the exotic fascination of a tale told by Scheherazade with the range and magnificence of an epic, Ali and Nino is a timeless classic of love in the face of war.

The Blue Sky


Galsan Tschinag - 1997
    For the young shepherd boy Dshurukuwaa, the confrontation comes in stages. First his older siblings leave the family yurt to attend a distant boarding school, followed by the death of his beloved grandmother and with it, the connection to the tribe’s traditions and deep relationship to the land. But the greatest tragedy strikes when his dog — “all that was left to me” — dies after ingesting poison set out by the boy’s father to protect the herd from wolves. His despairing questions to the Heavenly Blue Sky are answered only by the silence of the wind.The first and only member of the Tuvans to use written language to tell stories, Galsan Tschinag chronicles their traditions in this fascinating, bittersweet novel.

The Radiance of the King


Camara Laye - 1954
    Flush with self-importance, he demands to see the king, but the king has just left for the south of his realm. Traveling through an increasingly phantasmagoric landscape in the company of a beggar and two roguish boys, Clarence is gradually stripped of his pretensions, until he is sold to the royal harem as a slave. But in the end Clarence’s bewildering journey is the occasion of a revelation, as he discovers the image, both shameful and beautiful, of his own humanity in the alien splendor of the king.Camara Laye published his first novel in 1953, the autobiographical L'Enfant noir (The African Child, also published under the title The Dark Child). It follows his own journey from childhood in Kouroussa, his education in Conakry, and eventual departure for France. The book won the Prix Charles Veillon in 1954. L'Enfant noir was followed the next year by Le Regard du roi (The Radiance of the King).

A Golden Age


Tahmima Anam - 2007
    Her children are almost grown, the city is buzzing with excitement after recent elections. Change is in the air. But no one can foresee what will happen in the days and months that follow. For this is East Pakistan in 1971, a country on the brink of war. And this family's life is about to change forever. Set against the backdrop of the Bangladesh War of Independence, 'A Golden Age' is a story of passion and revolution, of hope, faith, and unexpected heroism. In the chaos of this era, everyone must make choices. And as she struggles to keep her family safe, Rehana will be forced to face a heartbreaking dilemma.

Beneath the Lion's Gaze


Maaza Mengiste - 2010
    This memorable, heartbreaking story opens in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1974, on the eve of a revolution. Yonas kneels in his mother’s prayer room, pleading to his god for an end to the violence that has wracked his family and country. His father, Hailu, a prominent doctor, has been ordered to report to jail after helping a victim of state-sanctioned torture to die. And Dawit, Hailu’s youngest son, has joined an underground resistance movement—a choice that will lead to more upheaval and bloodshed across a ravaged Ethiopia. Beneath the Lion’s Gaze tells a gripping story of family, of the bonds of love and friendship set in a time and place that has rarely been explored in fiction. It is a story about the lengths human beings will go in pursuit of freedom and the human price of a national revolution. Emotionally gripping, poetic, and indelibly tragic, Beneath The Lion’s Gaze is a transcendent and powerful debut. .

Broken April


Ismail Kadare - 1978
    After shooting his brother's killer, young Gjorg is entitled to thirty days' grace - not enough to see out the month of April.Then a visiting honeymoon couple cross the path of the fugitive. The bride's heart goes out to Gjorg, and even these 'civilised' strangers from the city risk becoming embroiled in the fatal mechanism of vendetta.

The Orchid House


Phyllis Shand Allfrey - 1953
    Lally helps to raise three white sisters in the Orchid House on the Island of Dominica and observes as each flees to the cold northern lands of England and America only to return to their magical past and the man they love.

The Islands


Carlos Gamerro - 1998
    Hacker Felipe Félix is summoned to the vertiginous twin towers of magnate Fausto Tamerlán and charged with finding the witnesses to a very public crime. Rejecting the mission is not an option. After a decade spent immersed in drugs and virtual realities, trying to forget the freezing trench in which he passed the Falklands War, Félix is forced to confront the city around him – and realises to his shock that the war never really ended.A detective novel, a cyber-thriller, an inner-city road trip and a war memoir, The Islands is a hilarious, devastating and dizzyingly surreal account of a history that remains all too raw.

Unburnable


Marie-Elena John - 2006
    Haunted by scandal and secrets, Lillian left Dominica when she was fourteen after discovering she was the daughter of Iris, the half-crazy woman whose life was told of in chanté mas songs sung during Carnival: "Matilda Swinging" and "Bottle of Coke"; songs about the village on a mountaintop and bones and bodies: songs about flying masquerades and a man who dropped dead. Lillian knew the songs well. And now she knows these songs---and thus the history---belong to her. After twenty years away, Lillian returns to face the demons of her past, and with the help of Teddy, the man she refused to love, she will find a way to heal.Set partly in contemporary Washington, D.C., and partly in post-World War II Dominica, Unburnable weaves together West Indian history, African culture, and American sensibilities. Richly textured and lushly rendered, Unburnable showcases a welcome and assured new voice.

The Wandering Falcon


Jamil Ahmad - 2011
    It is a formidable world and the people who live there are constantly subjected to extremes—both of geography and of culture.The Wandering Falcon begins with a young couple, refugees from their tribe, who have traveled to the middle of nowhere to escape the cruel punishments meted upon those who transgress the boundaries of marriage and family. Their son, Tor Baz, descended from both chiefs and outlaws, becomes “The Wandering Falcon,” a character who travels throughout the tribes, over the mountains and the plains, in the towns and tents that comprise the homes of the tribal people. The media today speak about this unimaginably remote region, a geopolitical hotbed of conspiracies, drone attacks, and conflict—now, told in the rich, dramatic tones of a master storyteller, this stunning, honor-bound culture is revealed from the inside.Jamil Ahmad has written an unforgettable portrait of a world of custom and compassion, of love and cruelty, of hardship and survival, a place fragile, unknown, and unforgiving.

Jamilia


Chingiz Aitmatov - 1958
    The story recounts the love between his new sister-in-law Jamilia and a local crippled young man, Daniyar, while Jamilia's husband, Sadyk, is away at the front during World War II.Based on clues in the story, it takes place in northwestern Kyrgyzstan, presumably Talas Province. The story is backdropped against the collective farming culture which was early in its peak in that period.Chingiz Aïtmatov was born in Kyrgyzstan in 1928. His work appeared in over one hundred languages, and received numerous awards, including the Lenin Prize. He was the Kyrgyz ambassador to the European Union, NATO, UNESCO and the Benelux countries.Translated by James Riordan.

Allah Is Not Obliged


Ahmadou Kourouma - 2000
    When ten-year-old Birahima's mother dies, he leaves his native village in the Ivory Coast, accompanied by the sorcerer and cook Yacouba, to search for his aunt Mahan. Crossing the border into Liberia, they are seized by rebels and forced into military service. Birahima is given a Kalashnikov, minimal rations of food, a small supply of dope and a tiny wage. Fighting in a chaotic civil war alongside many other boys, Birahima sees death, torture, dismemberment and madness but somehow manages to retain his own sanity. Raw and unforgettable, despairing yet filled with laughter, Allah Is Not Obliged reveals the ways in which children's innocence and youth are compromised by war.

Happiness is Possible


Oleg Zaionchkovsky - 2009
    All he can produce is notes about the happiness of others. But something draws him into the Moscow lives around him, bringing together lonely neighbours, restoring lost love, and helping out with building renovations. And happiness seems determined to catch up with him as well…