It’s a pleasure to take part in the Blogtour Black Foam by Haji Jabir – translated by Sawad Hussain and Marica Lynx Qualey.
About the Author
Haji Jabir is an Eritrean novelist who was born in the city of Massawa on the Red Sea Coast in 1976. He currently lives in Doha, Qatar, where he works as an Al Jazeera journalist. Jabir’s creative aim is to shed light on Eritrea’s past and present and to extricate his homeland from its cultural isolation. He is one of the most important Arabic-language authors of his time.
He has published four novels: Samrawit (2012), winner of the Sharjah Award for Arab Creativity in 2012, Fatma’s Harbour (2013), The Game of the Spindle (2015), which was longlisted for the 2016 Sheikh Zayed Book Award, and Black Foam (2018). Follow @7aji on Twitter
About the Translators
Marcia Lynx Qualey is the founding editor of ArabLit, an online magazine and resource that won the 2017 “Literary Translation Initiative” award at the London Book Fair. She writes, edits, and translates for a variety of newspapers and magazines, teaches writing in Morocco, and also works with a number of Arabic literature projects, including Kitab Sawti and the Library of Arabic Literature.
Sawad Hussain is a translator from the Arabic whose work has been recognized by English PEN, the Anglo-Omani Society, and the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation, among others. She is a judge for the Palestine Book Awards. Her recent translations include Passage to the Plaza by Sahar Khalifeh and A Bed for the King’s Daughter by Shahla Ujayli. She has run workshops introducing translation to students and adults under the auspices of Shadow Heroes, the British Library, the Yiddish Book Center, the National Centre for Writing, Africa Writes, and the Shubbak Festival. She is the 2022 translator in residence at the British Centre for Literary Translation.
About the book
From award-winning Eritrean author Haji Jabir comes a profoundly intimate novel about one man’s tireless attempt to find his place in the world.
A chameleon, Dawoud―or David, Adal, or Dawit, depending on where and when you meet him―is not lost in this whirl of identities. In fact, he is defined by it. Black Foam follows a group of Ethiopian Jews, the “Falash Mura”, who driven by poverty and desperation, emigrate to Israel in search of a better life. Amongst the group is “Dawoud”.
Dawoud is on the run from his murky past, aiming to discover where he belongs. He tries to assimilate into different groups along his journey through North Africa and Israel, changing his clothes, his religious affiliations, and even his name to fit in, but the safety and peace he seeks remain elusive. It seems prejudice is everywhere, holding him back, when all he really wants is to create a simple life he can call his own. Dawoud’s journey is circuitous and specific, but the desire to belong is universal.
Spellbinding to the final page, Black Foam is both intimate and grand in scale, much like the experiences of the millions of people migrating to find peace and safety in the twenty-first century.
A journey to belong, to be part of community, to be accepted by a new home and country. Sounds so simple, and yet it is at the core of this story. The essence of a man, woman, child – human being – to try and resettle your roots after they have been ripped out.
I think it’s hard, perhaps even impossible, for people who have been rooted solidly to one place or country their entire life, to fathom what it might be like to be torn from such security. Having to assimilate and integrate into new cultures, whilst being confronted daily by systemic racism and the negative preconceptions of other people.
Dawoud becomes something of a ever evolving chameleon when it comes to moving from place to place. He becomes the person he needs to be in order to be safe, to be accepted and in a way to remain nearly invisible. There is always the constant threat sitting on his shoulder and of course the hard truth is that staying low and inconspicuous won’t necessarily from becoming a target.
Reality speaks to truth in the last few chapters. No matter what you do there are some things that will always make refugees the target of those who are unable to deal with diversity, are unable to comprehend the destruction of home countries and the normal wish to keep families and self safe. The wish and a basic human right.
It’s a poignant read – an unforgettable one. A complex web of politics, religion, identity and the many facets of racism and bigotry.
Buy Black Foam at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Amazon Crossing, pub date 7th February 2023 | Paperback Original | £8.99. Buy at Amazon com.