Winner of the Prix Comar d’Or and the Prix des Cinq Continents
International Praise for The Ardent Swarm
“Yamen Manai…speaks with the accuracy of the scientist and at the same time the fire of a poet and the imagination of the novelist.” —Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, in interview with Patrick Simonin, TV5 Monde
“[The Ardent Swarm explores] the problems of contemporary Tunisia but [they are] approached in a very gentle, very subtle way, with a smile.” —Yvan Le Perec, France Bleu
“What a wonderful little book that is at once an enchantment, a hymn to nature, a warning about intolerance and the fundamentalism that threatens us, and also a great lesson in courage.” —Gérard Collard, La Griffe Noire
Praise for The Ardent Swarm
“Warmth, compassion, and humanity, with here-and-there touches of sarcasm and humor. A well-told tale showing that modernity isn’t always a blessing.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Masterly…The enormous talent on display here recommends a second reading to relish the author’s storytelling ability.” —Library Journal (starred review)
“The Ardent Swarm reminded me of my time in Tunisia in the years that followed the Jasmine Revolution in 2011. Drawing on real events that took place in the country, the author constructs a revealing allegory about the opposing political forces at work then. For readers who want to know more about the Arab Spring, The Ardent Swarm is a perfect place to begin their journey.” —Jake Walles, Former U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia
In this masterly novel, a small fundamentalist group arising after the Arab Spring commits atrocities in the name of God just as giant "murder" hornets kill the bees that are so necessary for crop fertilization and the production of honey. Beekeeper Sidi lives in the small, underdeveloped village of Nawa in Tunisia and is alarmed at the killing power of these giant hornets, new to his area. (The title comes from the way Japanese bees defend against these hornets by encircling a "scout" hornet, vibrating their wings to create an intense heat the hornet cannot endure.) As Sidi seeks protection from the hornets, Manai illustrates how the lives of the villagers are "managed" in a similar way by the extremist religious forces they endure. It's an excellent comparison. VERDICT Winner of the prestigious Prix de la Francophonie, Tunisian-born, Paris-based Manai's first book to be translated into English is a fascinating account of parallel conflicts between bees and hornets and between villagers and fanatics. The enormous talent on display here recommends a second reading to relish the author's storytelling ability.—Lisa Rohrbaugh, Leetonia Community P.L., OH
Past and present clash in North Africa in this surprising parable of a man and his bees by Tunisian author Manai, his first to be translated into English.
In the tiny kingdom of Qafar, Sidi is a humble beekeeper who lives alone and cares only for his bees and their lovely honey. One day, he checks his hives and finds “countless mutilated bodies” ripped apart by a mysterious evil force. All of the nearby village of Nawa is outraged, because they know of his devotion to what he calls his "girls." Meanwhile, he knows little about the forces that are changing Qafar forever. Once a land of roaming Bedouins, the country became ripe for exploitation after the discovery of natural gas underneath its sands. Qafari elders said the age-old custom of sitting on the sand and the locals’ propensity to fart were responsible for the country’s rich supply of underground natural gas. The country fell under decades of dictatorship until Qafaris recently rose up and opted for democracy. Great, thinks the cynical narrator. “What was easier to hijack than democracy?” An electoral caravan wows people in villages like Nawa, and victory goes to the Party of God. With help from friends, Sidi searches in the meantime for the source of the destruction of so many of his bees, and the answer he discovers becomes a useful tool when he encounters a group of murderers standing over their victims and shouting “War in the name of God!” Translated from the French, this short novel shows warmth, compassion, and humanity, with here-and-there touches of sarcasm and humor.
A well-told tale showing that modernity isn’t always a blessing.