cover image Brotherhood


Mohamed Mbougar Sarr, trans. from the French by Alexia Trigo. Europa, $17 trade paper (248p) ISBN 978-1-60945-672-6

Senegalese writer Sarr’s harrowing English-language debut follows a fundamentalist Islamic organization and the ragtag group of intellectuals intent on challenging its religious orthodoxy. In Kalep, Sumal, a fictional North African desert town, a group called the Brotherhood has taken root. Backed by a powerful military force, the Brotherhood is led by police chief Abdel Karim, who rules with an iron fist, executing young lovers accused of adultery and ordering the vicious beating of an absentminded woman who forgets to shroud herself in a hijab. Within this repressive society, a group of intellectuals develops an underground political journal called Rambaaj that’s aimed at stoking resistance. But instead of fomenting opposition, the paper sows seeds of discord. Greed and backbiting ensue as the Brotherhood rewards citizens who turn in readers of Rambaaj and journalists ruminate on the moral responsibility of their ideas while a burgeoning backlash threatens to divide them. Meanwhile, the haughty Karim burns down a cultural jewel, a well-known Sumalese library, in an attempt to winnow out the resistance journalists. Haunting philosophical questions demonstrate Sarr’s powers, and his story succeeds in speaking to both the reader’s head and heart. This introduces a vital new voice to American readers. (July)