2020 Longlist

Small Country


Translated from the French by Sarah Ardizzone

2020 Longlist

Burundi, 1992. For ten-year-old Gabriel, life in his comfortable expatriate neighborhood of Bujumbura with his French father, Rwandan mother and little sister Ana, is something close to paradise.

These are carefree days of laughter and adventure – sneaking Supermatch cigarettes and gorging on stolen mangoes – as he and his mischievous gang of friends transform their tiny cul-de-sac into their kingdom.

But dark clouds are gathering over this small country, and soon their peaceful existence will shatter when Burundi, and neighboring Rwanda, are brutally hit by civil war and genocide.

About the Author

Gaël Faye was born in 1982 in Burundi to a French father and Rwandan mother. In 1995, after the outbreak of the civil war in Rwanda, the family moved to France. Small Country is his first novel and has been awarded numerous literary prizes, among them the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens. He lives in Paris.

Librarian’s Comments

It is a most important novel on Rwanda and the genocide , and what it means to come after. Bibliothèque municipale de Colmar, France

Critically and publicly acclaimed in France, Gaël Faye’s first novel is a powerful narrative about the origins of the civil war that devastated Burundi in 1993. Deeply inspired by the author’s childhood, Small Country combines an amiable ingenuousness and a thorough exploration of the individual and collective psyche to expose the circumstances of the rise in violence, similar to those that led to a genocide in neighbouring Rwanda. This coming-of-age novel vividly portrays a boy who witnesses atrocities and realises the social and political tensions at stake in his country. Already known as a singer and a rapper,  Gaël Faye proves that this cadenced and suggestive style is as well suited for punchlines as it is for such a work of deep psychological and historical investigation. Bibliothèque publique d’information, France

It is a story about looking for your own identity and an everlasting, unfulfilled yearning for home and childhood. Poetic language, mature narration, simplicity and nostalgic tenor combined with the images of fear, violence and incomprehensible evil makes the story drilling into the mind like a razor blade which twitches and resonates a long time after reading. Wojewódzka Biblioteka Publiczna im. Marszałka Józefa Piłsudskiego w Łodzi, Poland

A coming of age novel, set in Burundi in 1992, as adult Gabriel looks back on his early life, as a mixed race child once living a protected serene life. Gaël Faye’s writing is beautiful and reflective. In his debut novel he presents the nuanced complexity of life in country and region where there is no definitive boundaries between countries, cultures and religions, and violence can erupt quickly. Los Angeles Public Library, USA




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