In 2018, Diégane Latyr Faye, a young Senegalese writer in Paris, discovers a legendary book from the 1930s, The Labyrinth of Inhumanity. No one knows what became of its author, once hailed as the "Black Rimbaud," after the book caused a scandal. Enthralled by this mystery, Diégane decides to search for T.C. Elimane, going down a path that will force him to confront the great tragedies of history, from colonialism to the Holocaust. Alongside his investigation, Diégane becomes part of a group of young African writers in Paris. Together they talk, drink, make love, philosophize about the role of exile in artistic creation. Diégane grows particularly close to two women: the seductive Siga, who holds so many secrets, and the photojournalist Aïda, impossible to pin down.
What might otherwise be dressed up as a simple (if alluring) detective narrative becomes, in Sarr’s hands, a wildly expansive interrogation of everything from the nature of erotic love to the literary canon. We traverse the gamut of genres — the mystery, the ghost story, the philosophical novel, the historical novel, the magical realist tale — as Sarr navigates a spider’s web that enmeshes fact and fiction, biography and gossip, authenticity and plagiarism, fame and infamy ... Whether or not Sarr has another great book waiting for us on the other side of the void, The Most Secret Memory of Men is incontestably one that demanded to be written.
Brainy and beautiful ... He uncovers fragments of Elimane’s story, which is rendered in a dizzying range of voices, forms and styles, including diary entries, press clippings, book reviews, interviews, letters and oral stories. These threads skillfully connect into a spider’s web that entrap Diégane; the more he finds out, the more he wants to know ... Fashioned out of stellar material ... At its best, The Most Secret Memory of Men reminds us that we ought to read for pleasure, not affirmation; for argument, not answer; and for investigation, not presumption. This is a novel by a lover of books, for lovers of books, and like any true love it demands nothing short of surrender.
A rollicking literary mystery dedicated to Ouologuem and loosely inspired by his disappearance ... An aerobatic feat of narrative invention, whirling between noir, fairy tale, satire, and archival fiction in its self-reflexive meditation on the nature of literary legend ... Sarr witheringly scrutinizes the cultural Françafrique—a word for France’s geopolitical influence over its former colonies—that relegates African fiction to the status of veiled memoir, ethnographic study, or folkloric entertainment. Defying these categories, he delivers a demiurgic story of literary self-creation ... A deft caricaturist ... Lush and immediate.