cover image The Most Secret Memory of Men

The Most Secret Memory of Men

Mohamed Mbougar Sarr, trans. from the French by Lara Vergnaud. Other Press, $19.99 trade paper (496p) ISBN 978-1-63542-327-3

Sarr (Brotherhood) explores African-European relations and literature’s transformative power in this brilliantly executed mystery inspired by the real-life story of Malian author Yambo Ouologuem. Diégane Latyr Faye, a Senegalese writer navigating the Parisian literary scene in 2018, finds the sole extant copy of The Labyrinth of Inhumanity, a debut published to acclaim in 1938, but quickly withdrawn by the publisher after accusations of plagiarism against its Senegalese author, T.C. Elimane, who subsequently fell into obscurity. Faye’s obsession with sharing the book with his circle of young African writers and his hope of discovering more works by Elimane leads to a rambling investigation to uncover what became of the author. Along the way, Faye comes into direct and indirect contact with Elimane’s’s family, lovers, detractors, and colleagues. Sarr’s clever use of multiple formats—including letters, diaries, and book reviews—to parcel out bits of the self-exiled Elimane’s biography ropes the reader into Faye’s search, which feels equal parts focused and fortuitous. The author never sacrifices story for cleverness, though, delivering a rich narrative about art as a lasting marker of ephemeral individual existence. Literary mystery fans will be captivated. Agent: Chrysothemis Armefti, 2 Seas. (Sept.)