Canadian

Descent into Night

Descent into Night is a novel by Edem Awumey.

Edem Awumey, translated by Phyllis Aronoff & Howard Scott

With a nod to Samuel Beckett and Bohumil Hrabal, a young dramatist from a West African nation describes a student protest against a brutal oligarchy and its crushing aftermath. While distributing leaflets with provocative quotations from Beckett, Ito Baraka is taken to a camp where torture, starvation, beatings and rape are normal. Forced to inform on his friends, whose fates he now fears, and released a broken man, he is enabled to escape to Quebec. His one goal is to tell the story of the protest and pay homage to Koli Lem, a teacher, cellmate, and lover of books, who was blinded by being forced to look at the sun — and is surely a symbol of the nation. (From Mawenzi House)

The original French edition, Explication de la nuit, was published in 2013 and received rave reviews from literary critics. 

Descent into Night won the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for translation.

From the Governor General's Literary Awards jury: "Descent into Night, translated by Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott, is a beautifully assured rendering of a text offering many translation challenges. The translators agilely follow the text as it shifts between an ailing Quebec writer's regrets about his life, and his long-ago involvement in a failed West African revolution, which haunts him into the present. This translation skillfully captures the lyricism of the French text."

Translators Phyllis Aronoff & Howard Scott wrote an original essay called Thoughts on Translation for the special CBC Books series Borders.

From the book

The train is a long reptile slithering through the night jungle. Ito Baraka hunkers down in his seat. To anyone who happens to walk through the empty wagon at that particular moment, he will appear a shady character, an old pile of skin and bones covered with a coat that's too big and makes him look like a fallen god. Through the closed window, he thinks he can make out eyes peering at him, the inquisitive gaze of big black cats, cruel creatures whose claws are raking his flesh. He looks like Hamm, the grumpy blind old cripple in Beckett's play Endgame. He thinks about Hamm, and about Beckett, because that's where it all started for him.


From Descent into Night by Edem Awumey, translated by Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott ©2017. Published by Mawenzi House.

The 2018 Governor General's Literary Award winners