An Israeli professor travels to a fictitious West African nation to trace a slave-trading ancestor, only to be imprisoned under a new law barring successive generations from profiting off the proceeds of slavery. But before departing from Tel Aviv, the protagonist falls in love with Lucile, a mysterious African migrant worker who cleans his house.
Weighty issues are everywhere in this novel: the legacy of slavery, labor migration, class, race and privilege. They often come up, though, in crude dialogue, implausible scenes or in rhetorical questions that take on the veneer of moral argument without the contorted novelistic work of making them come alive through believable characters ... Representing a transgressive personal politics in fiction is worthy — vital, even — so long as it serves a human truth ... Yet Schiff the novelist seems more interested in shocking, not elucidating, in appearing contrarian rather than truthful. That’s a shame, because his novel is daring in both scope and imagination.
As Mr. Schiff explores these Kafkaesque absurdities, he also portrays a more concrete inheritance of racism ... Mr. Schiff is often too clever for his own good—he caricatures his black characters to ironically comment on the caricaturing of black characters—but at times this shrewd masquerade has real bite.
A daring post-colonial satire ... The author takes a clear-eyed view of the horrors of slavery and its present-day consequences without slipping into didacticism or sacrificing the humor of his protagonist’s absurd actions. It’s a blistering skewering, and as sharp as it is funny.