“Edem is bubbling over, he is a river in flood that needs to be channelled.” With these words Tahar Ben Jelloun described his protégé, Togolese author Edem Awumey, when preparing to guide him in his writing during the mentoring year. Four years later, Edem is living in Canada and has quieted down, but without losing any of his strength.
In 2011, he began his fourth novel, which takes place between Africa and Quebec. It’s the story of a writer who has settled in Canada and whose only stable memory is of the African home of his childhood. From one hotel to the next, the main character “lives in elusive places”, Edem explains.
This is, in part, the theme of Edem’s second novel, Les Pieds sales, whose hero endlessly evades a shady past. Les Pieds sales, which was nominated for France’s prestigious Prix Goncourt, will be published in English in September by the Canadian publisher, House of Anansi, and in Dutch by Querido, with a Spanish translation due out in 2012.
Edem’s third novel, Rose déluge, will be published by Boréal, also in September. Its subject is water and erosion, land under threat from the waves. The characters navigate between Lomé, the capital of Togo, which is “eaten by the ocean”; Québec, where the inhabitants’ relationship with water shows a certain serenity; and New Orleans, in Louisiana. The book’s French publication, by Éditions du Seuil, is scheduled for winter 2012.
It was in fact in a city of water and canals – Gothenburg, Sweden’s main port – that Edem had a meeting with his former mentor in 2010. Tahar Ben Jelloun had been invited to the book fair there to talk about his novel, Sur ma mère, and the two authors spent an afternoon talking to one another – a snapshot in a dialogue that has continued since their first meeting.