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I Was an Elephant Salesman: Adventures between Dakar, Paris, and Milan

Overview

A landmark bestseller in Italy, I Was an Elephant Salesman gives a name and a face to the thousands of anonymous African street vendors in cities across Europe. Through the voice of a thinly veiled first-person narrator, Pap Khouma offers us a chilling, intimate, and often ironic glimpse into the life of an illegal immigrant. Khouma invents a life for himself as an itinerant trader of carved elephants, small ivories, and other "African" trinkets, struggling to maintain courage and dignity in the face of despair ...

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I Was an Elephant Salesman: Adventures between Dakar, Paris, and Milan

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Overview

A landmark bestseller in Italy, I Was an Elephant Salesman gives a name and a face to the thousands of anonymous African street vendors in cities across Europe. Through the voice of a thinly veiled first-person narrator, Pap Khouma offers us a chilling, intimate, and often ironic glimpse into the life of an illegal immigrant. Khouma invents a life for himself as an itinerant trader of carved elephants, small ivories, and other "African" trinkets, struggling to maintain courage and dignity in the face of despair and humiliation. Constantly on the run from the authorities, he finds insight into the vicissitudes of law and politics, the constraints of citizenship, national borders, skin color, and the often paralyzing difficulties of obtaining basic human needs. His story reveals a contemporary Europe struggling to come to terms with its multiracial, multireligious, and multicultural identity.

Indiana University Press

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Editorial Reviews

ForeWord Reviews

"This autobiographical novel is a treasure, a narrative of courage, optimism, and resilience.... Khouma gives his audience much food for thought." —ForeWord Reviews

World Literature in Review

"[T]he sly humor of its first-person narrator...gives this cultural critique the fast-paced charm of a road novel." —World Literature in Review, March-April 2011

Alessandra Di Maio

"One of the first and most influential autobiographical [immigrant] narratives published in Europe." —Alessandra Di Maio, University of California, Los Angeles

Jeanne Garane

"Rais[es] questions about youth culture, identity, and migrancy." —Jeanne Garane, University of South Carolina

From the Publisher
"[T]he sly humor of its first-person narrator...gives this cultural critique the fast-paced charm of a road novel." —World Literature in Review, March-April 2011
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780253222329
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press
  • Publication date: 9/21/2010
  • Series: Global African Voices Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 158
  • Sales rank: 1,146,454
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.38 (d)

Meet the Author

Pap Khouma is author of Nonno Dio e gli spiriti danzanti [Grandfather god and the dancing spirits] and founding editor of El Ghibli, an online journal of migrant literature.

Rebecca Hopkins teaches English and writing at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Bologna, Italy.

Graziella Parati is Professor of Italian at Dartmouth College. She is author of Migration Italy.

Indiana University Press

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Table of Contents

Translator's Preface
Introduction by Graziella Parati

Selling
Illegal
Africa
The Market in Abidjan
DakarRiccione
Street-Smart... Beach-Smart
Italian Money
Paolo il Nero
Girls from Senegal
Police... Just Joking!
Germany via Paris
A Month in Paris
The Foreign Legion
From Paris to Riccione
The Car-House
Double Malaw
Chief Laman
A Senegalese Lunch
A Dresser in Piacenza
The End of Ma
Milanese Chronicles
A Run on the Beach
Dakar via Moscow
Life in Senegal
A Tourist in Rome
To Catch a Thief
Lacoste
Fights in the Metro
Changes
Political Accusations
Children

Indiana University Press

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 30, 2010

    A story behind the stories you see

    I ordered this book simply because on our several visits to Italy we have come upon groups of obviously unsettled, young African men at tourist high-points, whether on the Riva del Schiavo in Venice or along the arcades around the vast Piazza del Duomo in Milan. One doesn't quite know what to make of them. Usually you end up seeing the state police chasing one or more of these young guys (clutching their bags of merchandise) along the main shoreline of Venice. So here's their back story, or at least the story of one young Senegalese fellow who was among the earliest of these 'illegals' in Italy. Makes for a fascinating read. A journey to a new sort of citizenship.

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