Abdourahman A. Waberi
Abdouraham A. Waberi was born in Djibouti, capital of the country of the same name in North East Africa in 1965. In 1985 he went to France to continue his studies in English and completed a doctorate on the Somalian writer Nuruddhin Farah. Today he teaches English in Caen, Normandy, and works as a journalist, in particular reviewing books for »Le Monde diplomatique«. He also advises the French publishing house »Le Serpent à Plumes« on African literature.
Djibouti declared its independence in 1977 when Waberi was twelve years old. He therefore considered himself his country’s »contemporary« and felt duty-bound to represent it in his literary work. The author’s first three published books can be seen as a trilogy on Djibouti, and bring various genres together. His two volumes of short stories, »Le Pays sans ombre« (1994; Eng. »The Land Without Shadows«, 2005) and »Cahier nomade« (1996; t: Nomadic notebook), were followed in 1997 by the novel »Balbala«. In 1996 the author received the Grand prix de l’Afrique noire for »Cahier nomade«, which was also translated into German. Following Waberi’s participation in the festival Fest’Africa in Lille in 1998 its organiser Nocky Djedanoum invited him to Kigali to take part in the project »Rwanda: écrire par devoir de mémoire« (t: Rwanda: Write to create memory). Alongside nine other writers, a film director and a sculptor, he attempted an artistic interpretation of the 1994 genocide. This project resulted in the prose volume »Moisson de crânes« (2000; t: Harvest of skulls), which was published in Paris in 2000. In his most recent novel »Transit« (2003), Waberi – in a style rich in metaphors and full of humour – tells of an African emigrant’s first experiences in Paris. This work, which the author calls a »universal chronicle on the subject of war and exile«, was awarded the Prix littéraire de la ville de Caen in 2004.
»With an almost eerie skill, Waberi depicts the conditions in his country and in other parts of Africa from a distance (he lives in France)«, commented one German reviewer on his short stories. As a fan of travel literature à la Bruce Chatwin, the poet is, however, fully aware of the dangers inherent in this genre: »One can seem a little condescending when commenting on something from a distance«. Today Waberi no longer feels the need to speak on behalf of Africa or his own country. As a writer he wants to free himself from ethnocentric perspectives so as to be able to focus on more general themes in poetic writing.
In his most recent novel, »Aux Etats-Unis d’Afrique« (2006; t: In the United States of Africa), Waberi adopts an almost fantastical perspective and offers a satirical parable on misery and inhumanity. As a child, the protagonist is adopted by an African on a humanitarian mission and brought from the poor »Euramerica« to the promised land of the »United States of Africa«. As an adult she becomes increasingly aware of her roots and leaves the wealthy continent, returning to the misery of Europe.
Waberi was a member of the jury for the »Lettre Ulysses Award for the Art of Reportage« in 2003 and 2004. He is currently a guest of the German Academic Exchange Service in Berlin.
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