Gauz — Debout–payé (2015)
Setting: Modern Paris, seen from the perspective of African immigrants
What it’s about: Paris and its consumer meccas seen through the eyes of the security guard, from people shopping the sales in cheap shops to posh-perfume stores on rich streets, written as if a glossary.
This detached observation puts the quirks of modern life under the microscope:
FROM ONE SHOPPING CENTRE TO ANOTHER: Leave Dubai, the city-shopping centre, and come to Paris on holidays to stuff your bags on the Champs-Elysees, the street-shopping centre.”
That colourful story dovetails with the story of west African immigrants in the early 1970s, who bemusedly watch French politicians start to scapegoat them in the early days of anti-immigrant rhetoric in French politics.
We see the euphoria of the migrant who achieves financial independence and a steady job, and the disillusion of being a second-class citizen. The novel begins with Congolese, Ivorians, Malians, Guieans, Beninois and Senegalese people queueing for job interviews, each with their own accents and styles — an internationalism too often lost to western stereotypes.
Why you should read it: Gauz is an exciting young new writer from Cote d’Ivoire. He has a unqiue style and a sharp political voice delivered with style and a sense of humour. This timely book injects with humanity the people that Europe would rather not see, making it essential reading.
The best book from Cote d’Ivoire? The most well-known book from the country is Allah is not obliged by Ahamdou Kourouma, telling the story of the civil war that ravaged the region in the 1990s from the perspective of a child soldier.