Well told by starlight

Posted on June 16, 2013


When the moon is not full, the stars shine more brightly – Chadian proverb

Joseph Brahim SeiChad-Landscapesd’s Told by Starlight in Chad is a slight book of short stories – most very short indeed.  I don’t know whether (and I appreciate it would be oxymoronic anyway) there is a rhetorical device of extended aphorism, but these stories read more like canapés of wisdom than fables or allegories.  They give the reader a taste of Chad, its past and its politics, while offering simple ways of looking at gnarly, old problems in a country that has been at war pretty much since independence from France in 1960. And yet the perspectives they offer feel universally relevant too.

I find it difficult to criticise short-story collections.  There’s usually a couple of stinkers in there or ones that faintly whiff anyway, and often, no over arching theme to get stuck into.   So, like Brahim Seid’s stories themselves, this blog will be short. Very short.  All I will say is that true to the title, the stories are united in the impression they give of being read out loud round a campfire. Given that one  ‘The Misanthropic King’ is a harsh critique of the cult of personality this is quite a trick to pull off.   In the preface, Brahim Seid asks us to sit among the happiest children on earth and share in the joy of their candour and their innocence as we listen.  You can almost hear the crickets – toasting on the fire.