The buzz around Inongo-vi-Makomé’s Natives is gaining steam. The novel has appeared on a few high profile 2016 must-read lists [here]. Our prediction: if you haven’t read Natives by the year’s end, you’ll appear seriously out-of-the-loop on all things African and literary.
Natives is about the unlikely encounter between an African man named Bambara Keita and two women in Barcelona.
The novel is a much needed addition to the immigrant story genre popularized by the likes of Chimamanda Adichie, Noviolet Bulawayo, Taiye Selasi, and Teju Cole.
Makome rewrites the story of Africans in Western spaces through the lens of sex and objectification. He explores the ways in which African bodies—economically and politically disenfranchised— inhabit and move through these spaces where they are subjected to all kinds of exploitation.
Having achieved professional success in Barcelona at the expense of family life, best friends Montse and Roser are dissatisfied and sexually frustrated. Over an evening cognac, the two friends hatch a plan to find one of Barcelona’s many illegal African immigrants, whom they plan to employ as the object of their sexual desires. When Montse finds Bambara Keita on a park bench at the Plaza de Cataluña, she know he is the one, and invites him home. Keita’s rags-to-riches experience means sacrificing some of his values in order to survive, as the two women take turns hosting—and hiding—him at their homes. When Roser is offered an attractive new position in Berlin, Keita is forced to make a difficult decision.
Makomé is as fascinating as his novel is captivating. He was born in Cameroon and lived and studied there. The somewhat surprising fact that Natives was originally written in Spanish has everything to do with the fact that Makomé later spent time in Equatorial Guinea and Spain—where he currently resides.
The English translation came out in October 2015. Jaya Nicely is responsible for the lovely cover art while Michael Ugarte, a University of Missouri literature professor, did the translating.
Natives is being described “a scathing satire” that takes up “objectification of the poor immigrant to shocking extremes, laying bare the dehumanizing effects of immigration today.”
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