Mohamed A. Tohiri – The Republic of the Beardless (1985)
Setting: The Comoros Islands during the Cold War (1970s roughly).
What it’s about: A dictator takes control of the island, empowering the young people to run his dictatorship and wiping out both colonial bureaucracy and traditional structures. A curious mix of satire and harrowing Khmer Rouge-style brutality.
The strongest moment is the chapter based on the inter-ethnic violence that forced Comorians to flee Madagascar in the 1970’s, and the divisions they caused when they arrived on the islands but didn’t fit in.
The definitive Comoros novel: A book about a coup and its overturning by foreign mercenaries is appropriate for country that had 18 coups between independence in 1975 and 2000.
Similar to: Reasons of State by Alejo Carpentier (like Tohiri, a diplomat which might explain why both novels feel quite contrived, with the characters are two-dimensional)
Rating: * (quite predictable, doesn’t bring anything new to the table)