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So Distant from My Life by Monique Ilboudo review – illuminating take on migration

A young west African keen to go to Europe discovers the price of making a new life in this novella by the Burkinabe academic and activist Migration is once again headline news, after the home secretary, Suella Braverman, controversially referred to asylum seekers crossing the Channel as an “invasion” as the UK’s handling of them descended into apparent chaos. Halfway through Monique Ilboudo’s astute novella (deftly translated by Yarri Kamara) her male protagonist meditates on how human mobility is defined by perspective and nationality: “Why are some people expatriates, while others migrate, emigrate or immigrate… In French, one expatriates oneself – s’expatrierThis is a choice: an act of will, not of fire under your bottom. When I migrate, I do not have a choice. It is the winds of poverty or of war that push me out of my home.” Set in the fictional west African town of Ouabany, So Distant From My Life follows the fortunes of Jeanphi who, determined not to be “a collateral victim of International Monetary Fund structural adjustment programmes”, seeks salvation abroad: “Our common quest is to try to live a better life. I sought to live better… Just a small corner on this vast Earth where I, too, could blossom.” So Distant from My Life by Monique Ilboudo, translated by Yarri Kamara, is published by Tilted Axis Press (£9.99). To support the Guardian and Observer order your copy at Delivery charges may apply Continue reading...

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