Translated from the original French by Lazer Lederhendler
A finalist for France’s prestigious Prix Goncourt literary award, Dirty Feet is a remarkable, inventive, and darkly compelling novel that tells the story of one man’s journey to retrace the steps of the mysterious, nomadic father who abandoned him years earlier.
As a small child, Askia was forced, along with his family, to wander the African desert as if under a curse. First driven from their home by drought and hunger, they were then kept out of the villages by those who did not want to see their “dirty feet” stay for too long.
Years later, it seems Askia is destined to relive his family’s curse night after night as he roams the streets of Paris in his taxi. One evening, he picks up Olia, a young woman who claims to recognize his face, telling him that his features are similar to those of a man she photographed years ago. Had it been his father, the mysterious Sidi Ben Sylla Mohammed? The father who migrated north without them, the father he has so often dreamt about; the father whom he aches to meet? With Olia’s help, Askia sets out to retrace Sidi’s steps. But before he can embark on this new journey, he must first confront his violent past.
A brutal, indelibly powerful look at the harrowing, often tragic lives of those who are condemned to wander.
About the Author
Edem Awumey was born in Togo in 1975. His first novel, Port-Mélo, won the Grand prix littéraire d’Afrique noire, one of the most distinguished literary prizes in Africa, and his second novel, the French edition of Dirty Feet (Les pieds sales), was a finalist for one of France’s most prestigious literary awards, the Prix Goncourt. Awumey now lives in Canada, where he is a teacher.
This book was finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award 2011, the highest Canadian prize, in the category “Translation – French to English”. The original novel also figures in the first selection of the prize Goncourt 2009.