A masterful coming-of-age novel and a gripping investigation into the life of a mysterious author who disappeared without a trace, by the first writer from sub-Saharan Africa to be awarded France’s prestigious Prix Goncourt.
Paris, 2018. Diégane Latyr Faye, a young Senegalese writer, discovers a legendary book published in 1938 titled The Maze of Inhumanity . No one knows what happened to the author, T.C. Elimane, once referred to as the “Black Rimbaud.” After he was accused of plagiarism, his reputation was destroyed by the critics. He subsequently disappeared without a trace.
Curiosity turns to obsession, and Faye embarks on a quest to uncover the fate of the mysterious T.C. Elimane. His search weaves past and present, countries and continents, following the author’s labyrinthine trail from Senegal to Argentina and France and confronting the great tragedies of history.
Alongside his investigation, Faye becomes part of a group of young African writers in Paris. They talk, drink, make love, and philosophize about the role of exile in artistic creation. He becomes particularly close to two women: the seductive Siga, keeper of secrets, and the fleeting photojournalist Aïda.
But throughout, a question persists: will he get to the truth at the center of the maze?
A gripping detective novel without a detective and a masterpiece of perpetual reinvention, The Most Secret Memory of Men confronts the impact of colonialism and neo-colonialism, the holocaust in Europe, dictatorships in South America and the Caribbean, genocide in Africa, and collaboration and resistance everywhere. Above all, it is a love song to literature and its timeless power.
Evocative, compelling, and complex!
The Most Secret Memory of Men is a captivating, immersive tale that takes you into the life of Diégane Latyr Faye, a young Senegalese writer living in France who, after stumbling across a controversial novel that affects him deeply, The Labyrinth of Inhumanity, decides to unravel the mystery and the scandal that caused the novel to be quickly pulled from shelves shortly after its release in the late 1930s and it’s author seemingly missing without a trace.
The prose is lyrical and rich. The characters are multilayered, inquisitive, and determined. And the plot, using stories within the story, is an astute, coming-of-age tale about life, loss, friendship, family, secrets, self-identity, curiosity, racism, infamy, culture, love affairs, literature, and the importance of finding one’s own voice.
Overall, The Most Secret Memory of Men is an atmospheric, philosophical, insightful tale by Mbourgar Sarr that does a beautiful job of highlighting the inherent struggles faced by writers and by those whose lives are continually and irrevocably changed due to colonization and political upheaval.
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