Mustafa Mutabaruka - an intense tale of personal disintegration and the corrosive power of memory revolving around Ulysses Dove, a young African-American dancer struggling to escape the harrowing images of a past dominated by a brutal father, and a grandfather

Mustafa Mutabaruka, Seed, Akashic Books, 2002.

Written in a tense, halting style that mirrors the strained, unsettling urgency of the protagonist, SEED weaves its competing narratives together into a singular voice in which abrasive violence and lyric beauty frequently overlap, and in which violence and redemption converge toward a common destiny. "Mustafa Mutabaruka's exceptional debut novel SEED has the resonance of a Greek myth and the immediacy of a slashing noir mystery. Moving from a lonely American farmhouse to the bathhouses of Morocco, from a barbarous past tot he sweetness of erotic love, SEED is bleak, brilliant, powerfully hallucinatory"--Joseph Cummins

Memories of abuse and family violence follow young African-American dancer Ulysses Dove as he travels across the world performing, in Mustafa Mutabaruka's debut novel Seed, unsettling and sharp in spite of its familiar subject matter. Forced to bide his time in North Africa after a show is canceled, Dove becomes intimate with an American woman and confesses to her a startling act of violence and the guilt and numbness that alternately afflict him. Episodic, stark and sensuous, the book elegantly weaves Dove's memories of childhood and the recent past with the narrative of his North African sojourn and his family history. - Publishers Weekly

This violent, sexually charged novel is a narrative tango intellectual, visceral, and inebriated. From the dizzying chaos of the opening pages, the reader is led by the straightforward prose and intense action through the painful yet sometimes subtly humorous narrative. Initially, quick, unannounced shifts in narration (the first-person pronoun is shared by two characters, Toussaint Dove and his son, Ulysses Dove) merge the characters and create an ambiguous and violent history that is passed from father to son. From this allegro, Ulysses arises as the main narrator. The violence and sexual abuse inflicted by his grandfather and father cloud his mind as he travels through Northern Africa in an enigmatic quest to find himself a quest that includes sexual activity, acquaintances, meditation, and, ultimately, the murder of his father. Mutabaruka's deft maneuvering between past and present, Morocco and the United States, blurs distinctions and creates a mystical and frightening story. Yet plain prose and interesting characters keep this novel on its feet and make it dance. Recommended for all strong fiction collections. - Lyle D. Rosdahl


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