Yasmina Khadra; Howard Curtis (translator)
Gallic Books, Mar 17 2015, $15.95
In Frankfurt, Dr. Kurt and Jessica Krausmann share a loving relationship. Thus when she unexpectedly commits suicide, Kurt mourns fiercely while also paralyzed by guilt compounded by being an MD for failing to see the signs. He is further shocked when he learns his beloved killed herself over a promotion that Jessica felt she earned, but someone with less credentials received.
Kurt’s friend Hans Makkenroth persuades the grieving widower to join him on a humanitarian mission to the Union of Comoros archipelago off East Africa. Sailing the Mediterranean for several weeks proves healing for Kurt. However in the Gulf of Aden, pirates violently take their vessel and incarcerate the two men and others as hostages. Over the next few weeks the guards abuse their prisoners with Joma personally targeting Kurt until Chief Moussa intervenes saving the German’s life. Depressed from feeling helpless Kurt struggles to keep Hans from dying from a saber wound. Kurt’s giving up on life until he meets Bruno from Bordeaux who gives him hope while explaining the anger of Africans towards their so-called White Man’s burden benefactors.
African Equation is an intriguing look at the continent from the perspectives of the pirates whose overall attitude is the hostages are flies trapped in a spider’s web while their leaders sees a cash crop, and stunned Europeans re their harsh mistreatment except enlightened Bruno. The storyline starts leisurely but allows the reader to understand Kurt before hyper-accelerating once the pirates capture the good sanitarians. Although the pirates change dramatically from feral warriors to intellectual philosophers over the course of the plot, readers will relish this profound look at how different Africans and Europeans perceive their dysfunctional relationship.