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The Belly of the Atlantic

by Fatou Diome

In a Senegalese village, Madicke dreams of football glory. Trying to dampen his enthusiasm is his sister Salie who has already made the move to France and knows the harsh realities of life as an immigrant. The humour of the young football fanatics in contrast with the daily grind of immigrant life made this a very moving book for me. The writing is eloquent and this made it so easy for me to empathise with those hoping for a better life and with those whose ambitions have been thwarted.

Extract

00221 ... it's not a number, it's the part of my throat where France Telecom presses the pitiless blade of its knife. France to Senegal .... When Senghor was dreaming up the notion of Francophony, he should have borne in mind that the Frenchman is richer than most of the French-speaking world and negotiated a deal to spare us this communications racket.
Only overwhelming nostalgia, the irresistible plea of a worried mother or impatient brother, can make me dial 00221. I pick up the receiver. It's black. It ought to be red, red with the blood I pour into France Telecom.
'Hello! Madicke? Yes, it's me. Is everything OK?'
'Yes, everything's OK. Did you watch the match?'
'Yes, I did. How are Grandpa and Grandma?'
'Fine. Who won? Did you watch the penalty shoot-out?'
'Yes. How are - '
'Everyone's fine! Tell me! Who took the penalties?'
Everyone's fine, that's a bit thin, but I don't press him. I know I won't have any real news before I've delivered my match report.

Translated by Ros Schwartz and Lulu Norman

Parallels

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
Bend it Like Beckham - the film
 

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