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Tuesday, June 25th, 2024  

Mohamed Mbougar Sarr

The Silence of the Choir

Published by Europa Editions

Jun 10, 2024 Bookmark and Share

With The Silence of the Choir, Senagalese writer Mohamed Mbougar Sarr, won the 2018 World Literature Prize. At 28 years old, he was the youngest author to have ever done so. The book, now translated from the French and released by Europa Editions, is a harrowing tale of immigration told from multiple perspectives across time in a small town in Sicily.

Seventy-two men, refugees, “ragazzi” as they are called, were brought to Italy, helmed by the Santa Marta Association, which is charged with supporting their integration into Altino, a small town in the Sicilian countryside at the foot of the Mount Etna volcano. The Silence of the Choir not only chronicles their journey of becoming part of the Altino community but also paints a picture of the town receiving them and the townsfolk charged with making them feel welcome, or not, as it were.

The story is told from multiple protagonists, creating a multi-faceted portrait of all of the characters in this drama. There is Jogoy Sen, the brave once-immigrant himself who is helps the Santa Marta Association by translating for the refugees. There is Foursseyni Traoré, one of the 72 hoping for a better life in Altino. There’s Giuseppe Fantini, the famous Italian poet who has spent his recent days nearly a shut in yet an elder of Altino community. There is Francesco Montero, the politically motivated mayor who hopes to parlay his job into higher office. And scores of others, ragazzi and Altino citizens alike whose lives, motivations, agendas, prejudices, and histories collide through The Silence of the Choir until the fantastic climax breaks the tension and makes resolution all but impossible.

The Silence of the Choir manages to negotiate immigration and its various complexities into one cohesive and emotionally ravaging tale. And in doing so, it bring to light truth. As such, The Silence of the Choir is nothing short of masterful. (

Author rating: 8/10

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