Magazine article The Spectator

'Ebola '76', by Amir Tag Elsir, Translated by Charis Bredin and Emily Danby - Review

Magazine article The Spectator

'Ebola '76', by Amir Tag Elsir, Translated by Charis Bredin and Emily Danby - Review

Article excerpt

Ebola '76 Amir Tag Elsir, translated by Charis Bredin and Emily Danby

Darf Publishers,, pp.134, £8.99, ISBN: 9781850772743

Remember Ebola? It killed more than 8,000 people last year -- before we were all Charlie -- with a quarter as many again dying since January. Almost all the deaths have occurred in the war-weakened west African states of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone; no licensed drug or vaccine yet exists for a virus that claimed its first victim almost 40 years ago in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The spread of that maiden epidemic northwards over the border with Sudan is the basis for Amir Tag Elsir's punchy short novel, Ebola '76 , originally published three years ago and now translated with fluency and keen timing by two young Arabists, in a fetching edition from a small London outfit focused on African and Middle Eastern subjects.

Elsir, a doctor from Sudan, weaves a busy urban tapestry around the bungling figure of Louis, a married cotton worker who brings Ebola to his home town after getting fresh with a young vagrant selling herself to tourists in Zaire, where Louis was mourning the death of a mistress.

The story initially unfolds as marital farce. Louis's wife, a water-seller who booby-traps their home in an attempt to do him an injury, decides in his absence to thaw relations and try for a baby -- to the delight of Ebola, portrayed as an omniscient villainous presence cackling over its master plan. …

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