Véronique Tadjo wasn’t a name known to me until I was mooching around Glasgow’s Argyle Street Waterstones on its late opening Thursday, picking up books at random which looked interesting. Who says you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover right? One of the books I picked up was The Blind Kingdom, and as it’s a slim little thing, it sneaked its way into my reading list perhaps a little higher than it should’ve - sorry again, War And Peace.
Tadjo is a writer born in Paris of Ivorian and French descent, growing up in Abidjan (former official and economic capital of the Ivory Coast). It’s easy to detect her Ivorian heritage in The Blind Kingdom, which on the surface is a story of a blind elite, the BlindPeople, who rule over the OtherPeople or slum-dwellers in a kingdom which is never named, but it’s a simple leap from this to the ruling, corrupt elites in African countries past and present.
The heroine of the novella, Akissa, is none other than the King’s daughter, and her love interest his secretary, one of the OtherPeople who becomes a slave to the rulers rather than living in poverty. Karim however has a secret, and that’s that he visits the slum-dwellers after dark.
It’s too slim a work for me to tell you much more than that without giving the whole plot away, but prose as beautiful as this is always worth a read. If I’ve a criticism of this work it’s that it could have been so much more developed, but as it is there’s absolutely no fat at all which is more than can be said for most modern novels - it’s a story of both love and politics in 95 pages. I think publisher Ayebia are onto a winner here and I’ll be very interested to read more of her works in the future.