Taut tale of migrant lives

2009-06-03 00:00


The Belly of the Atlantic

Fatou Diome

Serpent’s Tail

FATOU Diome was in KwaZulu-Natal earlier this year when she was a participant at the Time of the Writer conference in Durban.

Most of the time she lives and works in Strasbourg where she teaches literature at the university, but she was born in Senegal, and this, her first novel, deals with the plight of African immigrants to Europe — specifically Senegalese who go to France.

They are on the horns of a dilemma; on the one hand they face poverty, loneliness, exploitation and racism in the land they have gone to for a better future; on the other, those back home have completely unrealistic expectations of them.

Living on the island of Niodior (Diome’s Senegalese home as well) is Madické, a football-mad teenager whose only wish is to escape to Europe and play as a professional for a big-league team.

He sees his French-based elder half-sister, Salie, as his ticket out and is deaf to the warnings of his teacher, who also taught Salie. Their stories are intertwined with those of others who have faced the realities of emigration, and reacted to it in different ways.

For some, the experiment will end in tragedy, for others there may be a measure of success, but one of the saddest things is that no one back home will either believe or understand the realities.

The Belly of the Atlantic is a short and compelling novel. It was a bestseller in France and it tells a powerful tale with humour and charm, and without turning it into a complaint about the unfairness of life. And so the characters elicit the sympathy of the readers.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.