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)

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