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The Beggars' Pursuit
|Book Description (Annotation)
Handsome, naïve and loyal, Ambassador Molu Sakeseba blames himself for the recent trouble, although he fiercely protected his country's interests. But Washington is angry with Dictator Motutu for his role in the Tutsi genocide, and the State Department's next ambassador to Democratic Republic of the Congo is proof. When Motutu summons Sakeseba home to replace the ailing foreign minister, he ignores warnings from America's diplomatic corps and Fatou-Anne Cerusu, the wise Senegalese foreign minister. He kisses his wife and daughters good-bye and flies to Abu Dhabi, his first stop to intrigue, danger, and romance, before heading home to Africa. In Kinshasa security chief Maka Mgonu and the Dictator's trap await his arrival. With the negritude proponents’ activities in Paris, circa 1936, and the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda woven into the story, this is a roman à clef novel.
Pages: 336 pp.
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A lifelong student of the oral tradition and the literature of Africa, Christian Filostrat has resided in several countries on the continent, immersed in the culture while studying languages, socioeconomic and political trends unique to the region. He had the opportunity to observe and meet several heads of state. He draws on this experience and on his compilation of tales, proverbs, and traditions of the African peoples, as well as on his appreciation for the African narrative. In his writing of this story, tradition, paranoia, and machination entwined the exigency of survival.
Christian Filostrat is also a researcher in the field of French West Indies politics and literature and a life long student of the oral tradition and literature of Africa. He discussed the negritude struggle (agonistes) with Leopold S. Senghor, Aimé Césaire, and Léon Damas on several occasions. He was a friend of the Damas family while they resided in Washington, DC, and worked in Damas’s library. (Mrs. Damas asked that he oversee the Howard University funeral service for her husband and ensure that his cremation followed her wishes.) He carried his ashes to Damas’s final resting place in Guyane.
While in Dakar, President Senghor called him to discuss his article, “La Negritude et ‘conscience raciale et revolution sociale’ d’Aime Cesaire” and to ask that he lecture on the subject at the Université des Mutants on Gorée Island. In Negritude Agonistes, Assimilation against Nationalism in the French-speaking Caribbean and Guyane Filostrat presents L’Etudiant Noir... where the negritude concept first saw light in 1935.
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At the recent Calaloo conference at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, there was much buzz about this book. I heard that the author was an old Africa hand with a political background. I was intrigued; and when I finally got a copy, I was enthralled. The immediacy of the conspiracy and the complicated manner the dictator schemes against his envoy to his intended doom had me turn the pages to the redemptive end. It's well imagined (maybe it's not imagined; it unfolds like a newsreel) and well written. The myriad of colorful characters lead to twists and turns from Washington, DC to Abu Dhabi. Some of the scenes like the one in front of Paris's Notre Dame are priceless. (I have stood in front of Notre Dame a few times but never paid attention to the statues framing the cathedral's entrance.) The scene where the hero/villain head of security gets his comeuppance is gruesome yet fraught with tenderness and is thought provoking. With such a vivid scene, you are a fly on the wall. The husband catching his wife with her driver, shouting during her wild ride is another scene that had me riveted to the page. This is an unusual book, fast-paced yet literary. But I also have a couple of discordant notes: I would have preferred the Latin and Lingala phrases more amply translated or better still footnoted. And I am not sure priests even in the African colonial context were as vile as pictured here. Yet I applauded when they got what was coming to them. If you like exotic travel and can't afford a ticket, this is the book to read.
|—Debra Stephens, review from Amazon.com (permalink)|
After reading Filostrat's recent Négritude Agonistes, I looked for other things he might have written and found the Beggars's Pursuit. I wasn't disappointed. One of the chapters in this work includes the négritude proponents navigating Paris circa 1936. (see my review of Négritude Agonistes) If the State Department is still the way depicted in the Beggars's Pursuit, Hilary Clinton has her work cut out for her. Can the State Department continue to make Africa the assignment of choice for African Americans now that one is president of the United States? I wondered. But if they could do it under Colin Powell - which is when this story takes place - why not? The way one of the most venal dictators in Africa responds to getting an African-American ambassador is about as thought provoking as any account I have read in a long time. Multi-dimensional characters struggling to survive crumbling worlds give this work great velocity. I was particularly intrigued by the poetry-reading dictator's chief of security. A man who would frighten the devil himself. And the interrupted ritualistic scene of his castration is filled with details that put the reader among his executioners. It is a well written and multi-faceted book. And the much needed perspective on the State Department is refreshing and welcomed.
—Nathan Prim, at Amazon.com (permalink)
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For the media
Congolese International Congress Recommended Reading List: Fiction