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Book review - So Distant From My Life

Migration is once again headline news, after the home secretary, Suella Braverman, controversially referred to asylum seekers crossing the Channel as an “invasion” as the UK’s handling of them descended into apparent chaos. Halfway through Monique Ilboudo’s astute novella (deftly translated by Yarri Kamara) her male protagonist meditates on how human mobility is defined by perspective and nationality: “Why are some people  expatriates,  while others migrate ,  emigrate  or  immigrate…  In French, one expatriates oneself - s'expatrier...   This is a choice: an act of will, not of fire under your bottom. When I migrate, I do not have a choice. It is the winds of poverty or of war that push me out of my home.” Set in the fictional west African town of Ouabany,  So Distant From My Life  follows the fortunes of Jeanphi who, determined not to be “a collateral victim of International Monetary Fund structural adjustment programmes”, seeks salvation abroad: “Our common quest is to try to l