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The Ardent Swarm
Novel originally published 2017 (France)
An effortless read comprised of some of the most eloquent and poetic prose, The Ardent Swarm is a poignant historical fiction to add to your reads.
Set primarily in a remote settlement of North Africa during what would turn out to be the start of the Arab Spring (2010), the complete story spans generations but focuses on the traditions and business of one man set in recent history. As he develops his nature enterprise, the world around him closes in.
Sidi, local beekeeper from rural North African Nawa (fictional village of modern-day Tunisia, North Africa) has been far removed from recent political events that threaten to bring change to his landscape. Meanwhile, an inexplicable and deadly misfortune befalls Sidi and his community when they experience a variety of mysterious turns which include sudden onslaughts on their most precious natural, native resources.
Author Yamen Manai opens his cautionary tale with a historical prologue, which establishes the tone of the larger geopolitical setting of Manai’s Nawan people.
Shortly, we meet Sidi in modern times, where a handful of events, misunderstandings and misuse come to light as the reader follows Sidi in this overtly allegorical latter-day journey. Expect beautiful, routine days increasingly marked with tormenting discovery and impending calamity.
Amid the circumstances surrounding Sidi’s daily temporal experience, the author’s hand undertakes the telling in such a way as to acquaint readers intimately with this distant locale and some of the customs and experiences of its people in a contemporary setting. The natural world around Sidi is alive, and surrounds the reader with a most vibrant impression of his immediate environment.
At about 52,000 words, a reader will generally take 2-3 hours to read The Ardent Swarm.
Further reading, from the author and translator:
Yamen Manai and Lara Vergnaud on Translating “The Ardent Swarm”