German / Germany

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Merkel, Rainer (text)
Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 2013. – 685 p.
ISBN 978-3-10-048444-4

Liberia | Adventure | Search for identity | Coming-of-age novel

A surprise is revealed at the end: That’s when readers realise that the novel’s narrated time merely spans three days, even if they might have felt that, after devouring almost 700 pages brimming with events, excursions, and memories, they spent at least three weeks with Benjamin, Brilliant, and Bo without ever getting bored. The three protagonists’ experiences in the Liberian capital Monrovia and in the bush oscillate between ≫real-life≪ and ≫surreal-fantastic≪ happenings and thus keep readers guessing.

The personal narration, which assigns a distinctive voice to each character, is masterfully executed. The perception of the world through the ears of blind Bo is particularly impressive. Rainer Merkel combines coming-of-age novel, family saga, social novel, and travelogue employing post-modern irony and traditions of African storytelling. It is apparent that the author has lived in Liberia for a few months instead of just leafing through a guide book. That is why his book steers clear of any exoticism and cliches. (Age: 12+)