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2021 - Shortlisted
Part of a trilogy on the history of Tunisia’s Jewish community, this beautifully rendered and absorbing memoir has been described as a ‘complicated love letter’ to the author’s homeland. Through seemingly incidental and meandering memories, it traces Fellous’ attempts to make sense of and honour both personal and public tragedies — the death of her father, a friend’s death at sea, and escalating terrorist attacks like the killing of 38 tourists in Sousse on the night before the book begins.
This work echoes Proust in its multitude of colourful portraits of people and place on the author’s journey from Sousse to Paris, Normandy and back. It echoes Roland Barthes’ use of fragmentary texts and images to offer readers a prismatic memoir of both political and cultural significance. The core around which the work revolves — ‘softness’ as a strategy to counter unbearable loss and violence — is delicately handled and presented in a clear, fluent and poetic translation.