Yamen Manai: La Sérénade d’Ibrahim Santos [The Serenade of Ibrahim Santos]


The latest addition to my website is Yamen Manai‘s La Sérénade d’Ibrahim Santos [The Serenade of Ibrahim Santos]. Though a Tunisian novel with clear references to the political situation in Tunisia (the book was written just before the Tunisian Jasmine Revolution of 2011), the book is actually set on a fictitious Spanish-speaking Caribbean island. Santa Clara is a remote village on the island. The inhabitants make a very good rum. The President-General of the (unnamed) country tastes the rum and then tries to find out where it came from. Santa Clara is on no map and no-one has heard of it. The army is sent to find it and, eventually, a troop does find it. To their horror the streets are named after General Burgos, who was overthrown twenty years previously. The troops educate the inhabitants but have to sing the new national anthem so that Ibrahim Santos, the town band leader and weather forecaster, can transcribe it. But then the Minister of Agriculture decides to send Joaquín Calderón, top of the class in agricultural engineering in the whole country, to teach the ignorant inhabitants how to improve their output. Not surprisingly this does not meet with the approval of the inhabitants and the inevitable dispute happens. As this is (sort of) based on what happened or, rather, what Manai would have liked to happen, violence ensures. Manai tells his story well, a mocking satire damning those in authority and proclaiming freedom for his people.

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