Book Talk: The Gurugu Pledge by Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel (Indie Extravaganza Day 32)

I have yet to find a place to talk about the Read the World project that I'm doing - this blog doesn't quite seem the place, although the vast majority of what I'm reading for it is published by indies (they just seem to be doing better with the literature in translation). Who knows, it may come up in the future! Anyway, today's book talk fits in with the project very well and also gives me a chance to talk about one of the first independent publishers I discovered and one of my favourites to this day, And Other Stories.

The Gurugu Pledge is the second of Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel's novels that And Other Stories have published. His first, By Night the Mountains Burn was only the second book from Equatorial Guinea to ever be translated into English. I received it as part of my subscription (if you're interested in becoming a subsriber and helping the books get into existence you can do that here) and have been doing some additional reading because it's shown up my terrible lack of knowledge about many things.

The novel takes place entirely on Mount Gurugu, a real place in Morocco which borders with Melilla, an autonomous Spanish city. There is a border fence which, if it can be crossed, will taken migrants out of Africa and into Europe where they hope to find a better life. The first part of the novel sets the scene, with men gathered in a cave in their makeshift beds telling stories of their past lives. The story is interwoven with legends of infamous men from their villages and what happens when those men (or people who might at least be them) come into the camp at Gurugu.

The second part of the story is all about escape. The men (there are only two women on the mountain that we know of) are making attempts to climb the fence guarded by Moroccan police on one side and Spanish on the other. It's a pretty futile attempt but they keep trying because there's no other options for them.

Throughout the book the hopelessness of their situation is made clear over and over again. Towards the end there is a paragraph which examines the lengths that the narrator feels the European authorities will go to to keep black Africans out and it's a hard-hitting look at the way that people treat each other.

Despite the subject I didn't find the act of reading The Gurugu Pledge depressing. It's very intelligently and engagingly written, inviting the reader to really think about the people on the mountain (of course there are real people on this real mountain so that makes it even more poignant) and the things that people all over the world have to go through in the hopes of having a better life.

Announcing another raffle prize... Publishers And Other Stories have very kindly donated a 4 book bundle including The Gurugu Pledge to our raffle. If you'd like a chance to win it along with many other amazing prizes all you have to do is buy a raffle ticket or two. All money raised goes to our charitable partner Give a Book to support literacy projects across the UK.

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Check back tomorrow for another amazing business, or catch up with the series so far here.


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