Abdourahman A Waberi's Transit is partially comedic episodic novel about the civil war in Djibouti (1990-1994). The novel is told through a series of brief monologues from the five main characters. Two of the characters have found asylum in France: Harbi the intellectual and Bashir the brash former soldier. There are also monologues from Harbi's actual son, Abdo-Julien, his French-born wife, Alice, and his father, Awaleh. Gradually the sorry tale of the failed coup is told, primarily through the comedic voice of Bashir, who was drafted into the army and is seriously lacking in moral scruples. Yet the end result of the novel is to ask who is really to blame for the moral collapse: French colonizers, rebels, the democratically elected president, or drug pushers who supply the young soldiers?
Bashir's monologues are filled with aggressive posturing and pop cultural references. Normally that style of narrator puts me off a novel, but Waberi wields Bashir's character well as a challenge to the question of who is responsible for the moral degradation of war: someone like Bashir or someone who uses people like Bashir to wage war for political ends. Transit is an uncomfortable read that leaves the reader asking some very uncomfortable questions about our world.
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