In the United States of Africa


In the United States of Africa

Abdourahman A. Waberi
Translated by David and Nicole Ball
Foreword by Percival Everett

French Voices Series

134 pages


March 2009


$19.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

In a literary reversal as deadly serious as it is wickedly satiric, this novel by the acclaimed French-speaking African writer Abdourahman A. Waberi turns the fortunes of the world upside down. On this reimagined globe a stream of sorry humanity flows from the West, from the slums of America and the squalor of Europe, to escape poverty and desperation in the prosperous United States of Africa. It is in this world that an African doctor on a humanitarian mission to France adopts a child. Now a young artist, this girl, Malaïka, travels to the troubled land of her birth in hope of finding her mother—and perhaps something of her lost self. Her search, at times funny and strange, is also deeply poignant, reminding us at every moment of the turns of fate we call truth.

Author Bio

Abdourahman A. Waberi was born in Djibouti in 1965 and has lived in France since 1985. He has published numerous books, articles, and stories. His first collection of short stories, Le Pays Sans Ombre (published in English as The Land without Shadows) won Belgium’s Royal Academy of French Language and Literature Grand Prix. J. M. G. Le Clézio recognized and paid tribute to Waberi in his 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature lecture.
David and Nicole Ball, both independent translators in Northampton, Massachusetts, have published several translations separately, as well as together, including Lascaux: A Work of Memory. David Ball won the Modern Language Association’s prize for literary translation in 1996.
Percival Everett, professor of creative writing at the University of California–Riverside, is the author of many novels, including, most recently, The Water Cure.


“Humor and derision are weapons not often used in African literature. Abdourahman Waberi proves to be a master of the art which adds a cutting edge to his magnificent narrative.”—Maryse Condé, author of The Story of the Cannibal Woman

"In the United States of Africa, winner of the French Voices Award, is a splendid learning opportunity for readers in the US and Europe. . . . This winning, witty novel will help turn a flat globe, on which some people believe only the northern hemisphere is of any importance, into a round world where north and south are equally beautiful, heroic, and historic."—Barbara Ardinger, ForeWord Magazine

"Djibouti-born Waberi's brief and concentrated tale—part satire, part fable, part fever-dream—imagines the world turned upside down: a war rages between Quebec and the American Midwest, and all of "Euramerica" is a dark, barbaric hellhole. In the United States of Africa, however. . . peace and prosperity reign. . . . It's there that a dreamy, restless young artist named Maya ponders her history. . . . Waberi manages to convince of the power of art and love to heal very real rifts."—Publishers Weekly

“It reads like a tale by Voltaire, but darker and more striking. . . . The polemicist’s weapons give way to the ironist’s verve and the sparkling grace of the futuristic tale.”—Le Nouvel Observateur

“Waberi wittily destroys a whole series of clichés and prejudices about Africa—questionable views about immigration as well as the unhealthy side of humanitarian aid organizations draped in arrogance. . . . But this novel is also full of hope.”—Le Monde Diplomatique

“[Waberi’s] hilarious parable makes Africa the main world power, suffering from a plague of immigration [from “Euramerica”] that makes it think of closing its borders. . . . The world upside down? Reality seen from the other side of the mirror sometimes gives us the shivers.”—Le Point

“Exhilarating and instructive. . . . This is a powerful, courageous, inventive novel.”—Le Matricule des Anges

"In the United States of Africa is not a simple book. It's not a fun-filled romp in an imagined world turned on its head. It is a very accomplished novel though, one that definitely deserves to be part of the "French Voices" series, and that the University of Nebraska should be admired for bringing out."—Chad W. Post, Three Percent

"The world Waberi creates in his new novel may be entirely driven by the question of "what if", but it has the natural and wonderful effect of making the reader re-examine what is. Waberi's keen powers of empathy, his sharp wisdom and his beautiful prose make him one of the most exciting and original African writers working today."—Laila Lalami,

Table of Contents

Part 1. A Voyage to Asmara, the Federal Capital
Part 2. A Voyage to the Heart of the Studio
Part 3. A Voyage to Paris, France
Part 4. Return to Asmara


2016 Blue Metropolis Words to Change Literary Prize

A French Voices selection of the PEN American Center and French Embassy for quality translation of important contemporary French literature.

Finalist for the Best Translated Book Award, sponsored by Open Letter/Three Percent.

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