From award-winning Eritrean author Haji Jabir comes a profoundly intimate novel about one man's tireless attempt to find his place in the world.
Dawoud is on the run from his murky past, aiming to discover where he belongs. He tries to assimilate into different groups along his journey through North Africa and Israel, changing his clothes, his religious affiliations, and even his name to fit in, but the safety and peace he seeks remain elusive. It seems prejudice is everywhere, holding him back, when all he really wants is to create a simple life he can call his own. A chameleon, Dawoud--or David, Adal, or Dawit, depending on where and when you meet him--is not lost in this whirl of identities. In fact, he is defined by it.
Dawoud's journey is circuitous and specific, but the desire to belong is universal. Spellbinding to the final page, Black Foam is both intimate and grand in scale, much like the experiences of the millions of people migrating to find peace and safety in the twenty-first century.
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About the Author
Haji Jabir is an Eritrean novelist who was born in the city of Massawa on the Red Sea Coast in 1976. He currently lives in Doha, Qatar, where he works as an Al Jazeera journalist. Jabir's creative aim is to shed light on Eritrea's past and present and to extricate his homeland from its cultural isolation. He is one of the most important Arabic-language authors of his time.
Sawad Hussain is a translator from the Arabic whose work has been recognized by English PEN, the Anglo-Omani Society, and the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation, among others. She is a judge for the Palestine Book Awards. Her recent translations include Passage to the Plaza by Sahar Khalifeh and A Bed for the King's Daughter by Shahla Ujayli. She has run workshops introducing translation to students and adults under the auspices of Shadow Heroes, the British Library, the Yiddish Book Center, the National Centre for Writing, Africa Writes, and the Shubbak Festival. She is the 2022 translator in residence at the British Centre for Literary Translation. She tweets at @sawadhussain.
Longlisted for the 2019 International Prize for Arabic Fiction
Praise for Black Foam
"A captivating tale of one man's tireless journey to belong." --Booklist
"Veracity is always in doubt in this cunningly constructed novel where knowledge of when to reveal and when to conceal is reflected in a structure that frequently misleads the reader, fracturing time and truth." --Irish Times
"The Eritrean author Haji Jabir continues to dive into his favorite theme: the worlds of the marginalized on the African continent, transporting his reader this time from Asmara to Addis Ababa, taking him through different terrain, flying him to occupied Palestine, getting lost with him in the alleys of Jerusalem. It is a fluid mélange of literature, enjoyable narration, and documentary." --Al Quds newspaper
"[Black Foam] isn't limited to the tragic tale that revolves around 'Daoud, ' but rather it encompasses a human's quest for himself, for his identity, for love. It delves into if it is possible for a refugee in such exceptional circumstances, pursued by death at every turn, to find love." --Ida'at online newspaper
"Through the realistic retelling imparted with literary flair, Jabir emerges as a skilled transmitter of others' stories, documenting them so that the waves of forgetfulness don't wash them away." --The New Arab (Al-Araby Al-Jadeed)
"An unusual tale, in my opinion, and in that of many others too...I admire how [Haji Jabir] delved into the psychological aspects by way of the main issues: identity and the search for survival...survival at any cost! There are two narratives in the novel, the immediate past of the protagonist and his present, a technique that many an author employs, but Jabir here is in his own league." --Alharban (literary blog)
"The Eritrean novelist Haji Jabir shows in his novel Black Foam the trials of the Falasha Jews in Israel, and from his novel questions emerge about religion, identity, and belonging; refuge, migration, and love; racism and injustice; and life and death." --Nuq'tat Dhow (online newspaper)
"A searing exposé of the plight of Ethiopian Jews who immigrate to Israel. There is a cinematic quality to Black Foam, a discovery of new worlds, with Haji Jabir pointing a camera, up close and intimate, at his protagonist's anxieties and fancies. Scenes slice as Muslim Dawoud becomes Christian David then Jewish Dawit, all accompanied by a haunting soundtrack of loneliness and the indomitable will to survive." --Leila Aboulela, author of River Spirit