Green Book Yellow Dog
by J. Brown

"Love, beauty, sex, power, genius: death devoured them all. It had a shape perhaps, black and jagged, but all he could see was a shadow, staring up from his own conscience."

In 22 short "Extracts," the lives of a small group of young men and women growing up in North Africa from 1985 to 2005 are portrayed. Jesu and Maria are twins born to the sixties generation, whose visions of idyllic lands and love for "the poetry of Pablo Neruda" lead them to settle in Angola. Maria and her mother soon fled back to Europe and we enter the narrative when Jesu is a young man returned from a four-year stint in the army. He is mostly adrift, gambling and racing his souped-up cars while working simple labor jobs. Soon the money and mystery of the illicit drug trade ensnare him. His involvement with other players in that game lead to desperation and murder. A yellow dog he names "Fenris" is one of the most lasting connections he makes.

This is a poetic articulation of a life swallowed up by forces hard to tame. The most immediate comparison that springs to mind is, of course, Camus, with shades of "The Stranger" so evident at first. But Jesu is no Meursault. His alienation springs from perhaps a similar source that distrusts language and easy encapsulations. What the author's style and manner evokes is something more like the voluptuous poetry of a Saint-John Perse, that other poet of the sub-equatorial, where the colors and sounds and tastes of the deep, deep south inform every gesture. But it is wed to Camus' sense of the deep absurdity. He pulls no punches. A deep and affecting work.

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