Ryad Assani-Razaki

Portrait Ryad Assani-Razaki
© Hartwig Klappert

Ryad Assani-Razaki was born in 1981 in Cotonou in the West African state of Benin as the son of a computer scientist and a mother who was a literature enthusiast. He studied computer science at the University of North Carolina in the USA and the Université de Montréal in Canada. His writing, something he already began in early youth, remains influenced today more than anything else by his regular visits to Benin.2009 saw the release of his short story collection »Deux cercles« (tr. Two Circles), for which he received the Trillium Book Award in the same year. In these texts, Assani-Razaki writes about Africans who have left their homeland to head west in the hope of finding a better life, but who feel excluded and alienated once they get there. For his first novel, »La main d’Iman« (2011; tr. The Hand of the Iman), the author drew from many years of research to create from the stories of people who otherwise remain unheard a prototypical, fictitious state in Africa as the location where the story takes place and in the book he processes in literary form the experiences that were communicated to him. This debut not only earned him the 2011 Prix Robert-Cliche for Franco-Canadian literature, but was also well-received in the German-speaking features pages. Praise was given above all to the author’s clear and succinct language and to his ability, without many nuances, to portray »the individual inner and outer experiences of his five figures from four perspectives over a period of decades until shortly after the start of the new millennium« (»taz«). According to Bavarian broadcaster Bayerisches Rundfunk, Assani-Raziki highlights the »brutal hopelessness« in which the main characters of his story are trapped, no matter how hard they try to change their lives. Others have pointed out that the novel not only shows Africa in its brutality, but also establishes the connection between this brutality and Europa in the wounds that colonialism has left behind, the way refugees are treated there and the suffering they experience, all of which the Iman symbolically embodies. As literary role models, Assani-Raziki has named literature Nobel Prize laureates Toni Morrison and V. S. Naipaul. In 2013 he wrote the short story »Habibti« for the competition of the Governor General’s Award on the theme of blood. It tells of a father who has to decide between his family honour and his love of his daughter. Asked at Leipzig’s Book Fair this year, whether he wanted to continue working as a computer scientist, Assani-Raziki emphasised that it was important for him to have a real life when he is collecting and writing fictionally about the everyday lives of other people.Ryad Assani-Razaki lives in Toronto