Beyond Babylon

Beyond Babylon

3.87 (69 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author)  , Translated by  , Introduction by 

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Introduction by Jhumpa Lahiri Recipient of a prestigious 2018 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant An epic spread across three nations, Beyond Babylon casts a probing, endlessly perceptive eye on the lasting effects of traumas both national and personal. Telling the engrossing lives of two half-sisters who meet coincidentally in Tunisia, their mothers, and the elusive father who ties all their stories together, Igiaba Scego's virtuosic novel spreads thickly over Argentina's horrific dirty war, the chaotic final years of Siad Barre's brutal dictatorship in Somalia--which ended in catastrophic civil war--and the modern-day excesses of Italy's right-wing politics. United by the Italian government's attempts to establish authoritarian politics in Somalia, Argentina, and at home, Scego's kaleidoscopic plot investigates deep questions about our complicity in the governments that we often feel powerless to affect. In its myriad characters, locations, and languages, it brings new definition to identity in a fast-changing world of migrants and political upheaval. Most of all, Scego's five poignant lives anchor this sprawling work as they fight to build family ties while overcoming past violations, including governmental torture and sexual assault. A masterwork equally as adept with the lives of nations as those of human beings, Beyond Babylon brings much-needed insight, compassion, and understanding to our turbulent world.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 464 pages
  • 127 x 206 x 36mm | 635g
  • English
  • 1931883831
  • 9781931883832
  • 31,041

Review quote

"In this polyphonic novel of the Afro-Italian experience, Zuhra and Mar, two young women struggling to feel that they belong in Italy, look for the textures of life 'in the spaces between the Ferraris' . . . As Scego's book explores layers of time and branches of families, it suggests that no history is ever as certain as it seems at first glance." -- New Yorker

"Though ten years have passed since the novel's original publication in Italy, its wider political nuances don't feel any less urgent. The swing to right-wing governments, the reassertion of national borders and the xenophobic fear of refugees and migrants are never far from its centre. Beyond Babylon ultimately succeeds in rendering these on a human level." -- Times Literary Supplement

"Vibrant and heartrending . . . This powerful tale winningly portrays the path from pain to recovery and wholeness." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Sweeping and bold . . . In portraying the inner lives of refugee women and their first-generation, immigrant daughters, Scego has created a work of great empathy that is a testament to the psychological dissonance that refugees suffer as they remake lives in foreign places while under the pervasive shadow of brutal pasts." -- On the Seawall

"[Beyond Babylon] grows out of novels like Hanif Kureishi's The Buddha of Suburbia, Zadie Smith's White Teeth, Danzy Senna's Caucasia urban, coming-of-age novels written by young writers growing up with double perspectives, with the challenge of constructing a hybrid identity." -- from Jhumpa Lahiri's introduction

"One of the book's many feats is to illustrate how violence and prejudice in one place connect to those in another. We are therefore fortunate that Aaron Robertson has rendered this vast, powerful novel in accessible, fluid English. After having completed BeyondBabylon, anglophone readers will see, perhaps to their surprise, how connected we are to the world Scego describes... Scego's writing reveals her investment in representing the effects that migration, poverty, racism, sexism, colonialism, and antisemitism have on very different individuals."-- Public Books

"What a wonderful, shocking, heartbreaking, exciting book, and how better to tell this story than through Aaron Robertson's entrancing and pitch-perfect translation." -- Jennifer Croft, Man Booker International Prize-winning translator and author

"Igiaba Scego is one of the most prominent voices of a new cohort of black writers in Italy." -- Africa Is a Country

"Beyond Babylon is an illuminating, courageous novel in which the word becomes flesh and the writing mimics the melodic, syncopated rhythms of jazz, Bossa nova, Somali hello, and salsa. It is a densely woven tapestry in which language is no longer a barrier. High Italian and slang are deftly interspersed with Somali, Spanish, Arabic, and English. A variation on the theme of dictatorship, to quote the illustrious Nuruddin Farah, the book is a fistfight between memory and the redeeming power of words. In the words of the five protagonists, colors and genres blend to reveal the consequences of violence and oppression on the bodies of men and women alike." -- Ubah Cristina Ali Farah, author of Little Mother
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About Igiaba Scego

Igiaba Scego, born in Rome in 1974 to a family of Somali origins, is a writer and journalist. She is the author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, and her memoir La mia casa è dove sono won Italy's prestigious Mondello Prize. She is a frequent contributor to the magazine Internazionale and the supplement to La Repubblica, Il Venerdì di Repubblica. Jhumpa Lahiri received the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for Interpreter of Maladies, her debut story collection. She is also the author of The Namesake, Unaccustomed Earth, and The Lowland, a finalist for both the Man Booker prize and the National Book Award in fiction. Aaron Robertson has written for various publications including The New York Times, The Nation, n+1, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and more, and he is currently an editor at Literary Hub. He won a 2018 PEN/Heim grant for his translation of Igiaba Scego's Beyond Babylon.
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Rating details

69 ratings
3.87 out of 5 stars
5 33% (23)
4 29% (20)
3 29% (20)
2 9% (6)
1 0% (0)
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