A Long Way From Doula – written by Max Lobe – Translated by Ros Schwartz
‘His eye is as compassionate as his characterisations are rich. I only wish this novel had been twice the length. You are in for a treat’ PATRICK GALE,
author Rough Music and Friendly Fire
On the trail of Roger, a brother who has gone north in search of football fame in Europe, Choupi, the narrator, takes with him the older Simon, a neighbourhood friend. The bus trip north nearly ends in disaster when, at a pit stop, Simon goes wandering in search of grilled caterpillars. At the police station in Yaoundé, the local cop tells them that a feckless ‘boza’ – a loser who wants to go to Europe is not worth police effort and their mother should go and pleasure the police chief if she wants help! Through a series of joyful sparky vignettes, Cameroon life is revealed in all its ups and downs. Issues of life and death are raised but the tone remains light and edgy. Important issues of violence, terrorism, homosexuality and migration feature in A Long Way from Douala.
A Long Way From Doula is undoubtedly a fascinating read. This story takes the reader on a journey through modern day Cameroon. It gives us a rather intriguing, detailed insight as to the differences made from north to south, and the difficulties these differences can sometimes cause too.
We begin this journey with 14 year old Choupi, who is our narrator throughout this story. He is living with his parents and also his older brother Roger in their hometown of Doula. Choupi is a very academic boy who throws himself in to his studies, something which pleases his mother tremendously, whereas Roger is much more taken by Football, which he has a real talent for. This is far from encouraged by their mother, and their father shows little support either. After a rather unfortunate series of events, Roger leaves the fractured family home, with his dreams of playing for a top European football team, and this is when it becomes clear that Rogers intention is in fact to get to ‘boza’ a west African term for Europe.
Choupi, who is also known as Jean, alongside an older friend Simon who is quite often referred to as his brother, are sent in search of Roger, but it is far from being a simple task to complete, and they embark on a journey in which they will never forget.
Despite this book not being within my usual genre, I was drawn in right away. The story is told with such enthusiasm and passion, it is impossible to not become fully immersed within the pages of this book. I enjoyed learning more about a country that is so often under represented in literature, alongside the remarkable people in which we came to know throughout. Choupi’s narration of their journey really makes you feel as though you are alongside them on their travels, and they soon come to feel like close companions. Wonderfully detailed, well structured and intriguing, I truly enjoyed this book.
About the Author
MAX LOBE was born in Douala, Cameroon. At eighteen he moved to Switzerland, where he earned a BA in communication and journalism and a master’s in public policy and administration. In 2017, his novel Confidences won the Ahmadou Kourouma Prize. A Long Way From Douala, his latest novel, was published in 2018 to rave reviews in Switzerland and France. Other books by the author include 39 rue de Berne and La Trinité Bantoue. Max Lobe lives in Geneva.