The African Shore

Rodrigo Rey Rosa; Translated by Jeffrey Gray

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A riveting and highly praised novel by Guatemala’s leading writer of fiction, now in English for the first time

In the vein of the writings of Paul Bowles, Paul Theroux, and V. S. Naipaul, The African Shore marks a major new installment in the genre of dystopic travel fiction. Rodrigo Rey Rosa, prominent in today’s Guatemalan literary world and an author of growing international reputation, presents a tale of alienation, misrecognition, and intrigue set in and around Tangier. He weaves a double narrative involving a Colombian tourist pleasurably stranded in Morocco and a young shepherd who dreams of migrating to Spain and of “riches to come.” At the center of their tale is an owl both treasured and coveted.

The author addresses the anxiety, distrust, and potential for violence that characterize the border of all borders: the strait that divides Africa and Europe, where the waters of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic meet. His often-remarked prose style, at once rich and spare, endows his work with remarkable elegance. Rey Rosa generates a powerful reality within his imagined world, and he maintains a narrative tension to the haunting conclusion, raising small and large questions that linger in the reader’s mind long after the final page.

With an Afterword by Jeffrey Gray

Rodrigo Rey Rosa is a prominent member of the Guatemalan literary scene. Many of his works of fiction have been translated and internationally acclaimed, including Dust on Her Tongue, The Beggar’s Knife, and The Pelcari Project, all translated into English by the late Paul Bowles. He lives in Guatemala. Jeffrey Gray is professor of English, Seton Hall University, New Jersey. He is author of Mastery’s End: Travel and Postwar American Poetry and editor of the Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Poets and Poetry.

 “Rodrigo Rey Rosa is the most rigorous writer of my generation, the most transparent, the one that knows best how to weave his stories, and the most luminous of all.”—Roberto Bolaño

“Quietly mesmerizing . . . Gray’s unadorned translation, keeping many of the regional exclamations intact, lets the narrative shine, demonstrating why Rey Rosa’s reputation is growing internationally.”—Publishers Weekly
“Rey Rosa creates narratives of mythic proportions.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“I read Rodrigo Rey Rosa’s The African Shore in a single night. It is a slim volume, only 136 pages, but, more importantly, Rey Rosa is one of the most economical writers I’ve encountered in a long time. The exactitude and concise beauty of his prose illustrates not only what the characters do, but above all, what they see and what they perceive.”—Justin Alvarez, The Paris Review
“Bolaño wrote that Rey Rosa 'is the most rigorous writer of my generation, the most transparent, the one who knows best how to weave his stories, and the most luminous of all.' Rigorous and luminous, spare and sensual, terse and hilarious, horrifying yet with a poetic, supernatural and metaphysical imagination, his writing—like that found in the novella The African Shore, just out from Yale University Press in Jeffrey Gray’s translation—throws open windows in your mind as you read.”—Francisco Goldman, BOMB
La orilla africana is expertly designed; it raises a series of small and large questions, which relay one another cunningly, maintaining narrative tension up to the haunting conclusion, and indeed beyond . . . It is tempting to call La orilla africana a minimalist novel, because of its scaled-down look, but that would be misleading. Although it systematically avoids emphasis, it touches on large and urgent themes.”—Chris Andrews, The Quarterly Conversation
“Elegantly written, The African Shore conveys much information about cultures, past and present, along with the people who straddle the worlds of Europe and Africa. . . . Stunning in the simplicity and clarity of its style, this novel says a great deal in very few words, and the ending is perfect.”—Seeing the World Through Books
“Rodrigo Rey Rosa is a Guatemalan novelist whose short, minimalist prose demands being sifted through to uncover layers and interwoven strands that make the reading of The African Shore a rich and intense experience.”—New York Journal of Books
“A writer whose originality is such that he eludes all precedents or models “—J.A. Masoliver Ródenas, La Vanguardia

“[Rodrigo Rey Rosa’s] work is extraordinarily precise, mythic, and intriguing; it’s literature without useless gestures, where beauty seems to be born of its author’s curious inclination towards silence.”—Raphaëlle Rérolle, Le Monde

“[Rodrigo Rey Rosa’s] prose is almost elliptical, full of sharp turns immersed in fleeting sensory, impressionistic shadows.”—Claude-Michel Cluny, Le Figaro Litteraire

“Rodrigo Rey Rosa’s prose, dense and precise, shows his literary relationship to legendary writer Paul Bowles.”—Der Spiegel

“A colossal writer in the Spanish language who, with the prodigious exactitude of his prose and the mathematic equilibrium of his narratives, draws from an abundance of techniques amplified by true talent.” —Javier Aparicio Maydeu, El Periódico

“A rare novel—perfectly executed, inhabited both by poetry and by silence—which must be included among the greatest work of a great novelist.” —Luis Alonso Girgado, El Correo Gallego

“The novel has a clear and beautiful style, achieved through an appearance of sensuality—an equilibrium at once erotic and ascetic.” —Sergio González Rodríguez, Reforma

“The Guatemalan writer focuses his energy, certainly, on the subtle elements of his style: the speed, exactitude and concise beauty of his prose, combined with the elliptical flow of his narratives, continue to recommend him as a young master in the art of saying more with less.”—Gustavo Guerrero, Letras Libres

“Rodrigo Rey Rosa has developed a signature prose style. . . .achieving a poetic elegance that is both lucid and precise.”—Ricardo Baixeras,

“Each new book by Rodrigo Rey Rosa . . . [has] the special quality of a meticulous prose, elaborate to the point of being handcrafted, though not in search of style, but rather, on the contrary, of writing that is refined, light, silent—that is evocative and imaginative rather than informative.”—J.A. Masoliver Ródenas, La Vanguardia

“In La orilla africana, Rodrigo Rey Rosa attempts a literature of the senses and of fundamental understanding. I don’t mean to refer to Rey Rosa’s as experimental literature, but rather to note its author’s use of literature as a sensual and moral sense. And by use, I mean, of reading to the point of almost irrational enjoyment.”—Ernesto Ayala-Dip, El Correo Español

 “We discover here [Rey Rosa] as a master of insinuation, of indirect allusion. He leaves much unsaid, leaving the imagination of the reader to read between the lines.”—Klaus Jetz, Entwicklungspolitik

“The promising progress and development of Rodrigo Rey Rosa as a writer that some critics awaited in 1994 has now been completed.”—Raquel Luzárraga, Quimera


“Rey Rosa writes in a very precise and very fresh style. He recounts what the characters do, but above all, what they see and what they perceive. [The book] breathes life.”—Valentin Schönherr, Lateinamerika Nachrichten

“A show of stylistic restraint.”—Ignacio Echevarría, Babelia

“With a style both diaphanous and precise, at once strong and delicate, in La orilla africana events are never premeditated . . . The success of the novel is above all in underscoring, without sensationalism, how fate welcomes [the characters].”—Jose Carlos Cataño, ABC Madrid
“Evocative, even moving. . . . The African Shore is quite gripping.”—The Complete Review
The African Shore practically demands to be read. It is a contemporary tale of international encounters in cosmopolitan, but substantially transformed Tangier, which leaves us thinking and wondering. Anyone who has spent significant time in Morocco will recognize the world that Rey Rosa evokes in his wonderfully frugal prose. And those who have not will enter into a foreign world and encounter a beautiful story that defies full comprehension. Both will leave the land of The African Shore changed.”—The Quarterly Conversation
“The book reads like a vivid dream seen through an opium haze, and sentence-by-sentence, is beautiful.”—Three Percent
“A dark and intriguing travelogue.”—World Literature Today
"Exquisite . . . The North African setting (including Gibraltar) is as vivid and as enervating as the writings of Rey Rosa’s mentor.  I’ve been a fan of Bowles and Rey Rosa for years, especially the latter’s stories. It’s a pleasure to read this longer narrative . . . skillfully translated by Jeffrey Gray."—Charles R. Larson, Counterpunch
"Simple, elegant, and surprising . . . Rey Rosa was a protégé of Paul Bowles’s and, though many of Rey Rosa’s books are set in his home country of Guatemala, this one takes place in Tangier, which is textured, meandering, and dreamlike, as if seen through an opium haze."—Sarah Gerard, Vol. 1 Brooklyn
"Rey Rosa’s masterful narrative has been remarkably conveyed into English by Jeffrey Gray."—Christopher Schaefer, Three Percent
Finalist for the Best Translated Book Award organized by Three Percent, a resource for international literature based at the University of Rochester.

Shortlisted for the PEN American Center 2014 Literary Awards Translation Prize.

Longlisted for the American Literary Translation Association's 2014 National Translation Award.The Shortlist will be announced in October 2014.
ISBN: 9780300196108
Publication Date: October 22, 2013
160 pages, 5 x 7 3/4

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