by Gabriela Babnik
translated from Slovene by Rawley Grau
This is a strange book, difficult to follow at times, but always lyrical and occasionally outstanding. It’s my Slovenia book for the EU Reading Challenge, written by a Slovene author and starring a Slovene main character, but actually set in Burkina Faso. It seems extra appropriate for this project as its publication was co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.
The book opens with two people in bed together in a hotel room in Ouagadougou. They are Ana – a 62-year-old artist here on holiday – and Ismael, a 27-year-old local who spent much of his life living on the street. It’s an unlikely pairing and one that doesn’t seem destined to last, but as the narrative alternates between their points of view, we discover things they have in common. In a way they are both running away from their daily lives, and as they gradually open up to each other, we learn that neither of them is quite what you expect.