Ten-year-old Gabriel spends his days roaming his Bujumbura neighborhood with a close-knit gang of friends and his evenings with his family — his French father, Rwandan mother, and younger sister. But his idyllic life is thrown into disarray when his parents separate, war breaks out in neighboring Rwanda, and the contentious Burundi election results are overthrown in a violent coup.
Told in Gabriel’s frank, observant voice, Small Country is the haunting portrayal of a childhood eroded by the brutal forces of violence and hatred.
“His body crumpled onto the tarmac. His chest rose three times under his shirt, in rapid succession. He was searching for air. Then nothing. The attackers left, as calmly as they had arrived, and the passerby went on their way, avoiding the corpse much as they might have walked around a traffic cone. The entire city was bustling, going about its business, shopping and continuing with its daily grind. Traffic was heavy, mini-buses blasted their horns, street vendors touted bags of water and peanuts, there were sweethearts hoping to find love letters in their PO boxes, a child bought white roses for his sick mother, a woman sold tins of tomato concentrate, a teenager emerged from the barber’s with the latest style and, for some time now, men had been able to kill other men with absolute impunity, under the same midday sun as before.”
Gaël Faye is a songwriter, rapper, and author. His debut album, Pili Pili on a Butter Croissant, was released in 2013, and his first novel, Small Country, was published in 2018. Born in Burundi, he moved to France with his family at age 13. Today, he lives in Kigali, Rwanda.
Length: 183 pages
Main Setting: Bujumbura, Burundi
Secondary Setting: Rwanda
Translated by: Sarah Ardizzone