cover image Montecore: The Silence of the Tiger

Montecore: The Silence of the Tiger

Jonas Hassen Khemiri, trans. from the Swedish by Rachel Willson-Broyles, Knopf, $25.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-307-27095-5

Khemiri's inventive, tricky tale charts a Tunisian immigrant's rise from poor orphan to world-famous photographer. The hero, it's suggested, is actually Khemiri's father—and the author seems to know little about the man's life, despite his father's fame. Alongside (intentionally and comically) poorly translated letters to the author from Kadir, the father's childhood best friend, the author rifles through a catalogue of uncertain memories. We soon learn that the father worked his way out of poverty by apprenticing with a Tunisian photographer and later running off with a Swedish flight attendant, the author's mother. But as more becomes apparent about the strange life of the author's father, the stories shared don't always match up—and the reader begins to question Kadir's motives. Each passage varies linguistically, tonally, and stylistically, coalescing to create a vibrant story of culture, class, and family history enlivened by Khemiri's subtle wit and voice. And though the overly elaborate structure can grow tiresome, Willson-Broyles's masterful translation and the energy and freshness of Khemiri's voice make this imaginative book a worthwhile read. (Feb.)