Review: As the Crow Flies by Veronique Tadjo
Title: As the Crow Flies
Author: Tadjo, Veronique
Translator: wa Goro, Wangui
Length: 112 pages
Genre: Fiction, General
Publisher / Year: Penguin African Writers / 2001
Source: World’s Biggest Bookstore
Why I Read It: This author was added to my wish list after great reviews of her books by Kinna Reads and ImageNations.
Date Read: 22/07/11
This is an incredibly hard book to describe or review but I’m going to try here anyway – forgive me if I can’t even come close to highlighting the joys of the experience that is this book. Wikipedia lists the title as poetry, and while it is far from a traditional narrative, calling it poetry seems like even more of a stretch. The book begins with a poem:
If you want to love
To the ends of the earth
With no shortcuts
As the crow flies
And then contains a short message as if from the author about her desire to write a simple narrative but stating the impossibility of doing this in our interconnected world where everything interacts and affects others. Nothing in the story is straightforward and that begins here where the confusion sets in as to if this is a message from Tadjo or from the imaginary narrator of the tale.
The rest of the story is told as small bits and pieces that perhaps pull together to form a narrative, but perhaps do not. They highlight the interconnectedness of our lives and the reverberations our actions hold for others. We see different perspectives and small moments into the lives of many nameless characters, as the cover reads: ‘Like a bird in flight, the reader travels across a borderless landscape composed of tales of daily existence’.
I realize that I am making this book sound incredibly convoluted and confusing but instead the reader is able to just sit back and take in each piece and experience. It did take a bit for me to turn my brain off and stop looking for connections and a narrative but once I was able to get past that block the book read very interestingly.
There is a thread in that occasionally our narrator crops up with comments such as “There is a story in each of us. Listen, somebody is speaking” on page 16. This gives us a bit of a frame around the moments that we see. Through the book we get ideas of love and loneliness, of compromise and power, of the love and homesickness for a country and for families. We see the numerous reasons we all have for love and for betrayal, and the consequences of actions.
Eyes blind and the body damn, you think that sleep is never going to come. Then, thoughts of regret flash through your mind, and those days wasted in too much wandering. And what of tomorrow, which has no rhyme nor reason and which is hazy and silent? (page 39)
It was madness to believe that bodies could banish loneliness, that pleasure could give birth to fertile language. (page 102)
Tadjo has managed to write what I saw as a completely new novel that touches exactly so many of the emotions we feel through our lives. She has managed to touch on things that are important to us and many of the things that we feel. Although the form can be a bit of a challenge, it is well worth the read.