Written by Edem Awumey
Translated by Lazer Lederhendler
Publication Date August 17, 2011
Nominated for the Governor General's Literary Award: Translation and the ReLit Awards
As a small child, Askia was forced, along with his family, to wander the African desert as if under a curse. First driven from their home by drought and hunger, they were then kept from the villages they passed through by the fear and suspicion of others, who did not want to see their "dirty feet" stay for too long.
Years later, it seems Askia is destined to relive his family’s curse night after night as he roams the streets of Paris in his taxi. One evening, he picks up Olia, a young woman who claims to recognize his face, telling him that his features are similar to those of a man she photographed years ago. Had it been his father, the enigmatic Sidi Ben Sylla Mohammed? The father who migrated north long before he did; the father he has so often dreamt about; the father whom he aches to meet?
With Olia’s help, Askia sets out to retrace Sidi’s steps. But before he can embark on this new journey, he must first confront his violent past. A brutal, indelibly powerful look at the harrowing, often violent lives of those who are condemned to wander.
Short-listed for the Governor General's Literary Award: Translation 2011
Long-listed for the ReLit Awards 2012
Long-listed for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2013
Edem Uwumey was born in Togo in 1975. His first novel, Port-Melo, won the Grand Prix Litteraire de L’Afrique Noire, one of the most distinguished literary prizes in Africa, and his second novel, Les pieds sales (Dirty Feet), was a finalist for one of France’s most prestigious literary prizes, the Prix Goncourt. Awumey now lives in Canada where he is a teacher.
Lazer Lederhendler is a translator and teacher. In 2008, he won the Governor General’s Literary Award for French to English translation of Nikolski. He is also the translator of Gaetan Soucy’s novel, The Immaculate Conception, which was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Literary Award for French to English translation, and won the French-to-English Translation Prize from the Quebec Writers’ Federation. Lederhendler lives in Montreal, Quebec.
"Reading [Dirty Feet] one inevitably thinks of the recent mass flight of starving Somalis to Kenya . . . intriguing . . ." Montreal Gazette
"Haunting and beautiful . . . Dirty Feet explores the nature of violence, confrontation and grants a powerful insight into the lives of those denounced to wander." Telegraph Journal
"Awumey adorns his book with short, vivid phrases that, at times, read like poems ... reveal[ing] ..." Montreal Review of Books
"... Awumey’s spare style and stark vision disrupts our complacent vision of the world we know; he challenges our belief in the universal progress of race relations ... Dirty Feet is rich in wisdom and allusion ..." Globe and Mail
"The writing is beautiful [and] leaves room for the imagination." Herald de Paris