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Liberian writer and Sea Breeze Journal of Contemporary Liberian Writing’s literary editor, Vamba Sherif’s novel Bound to Secrecy has been selected as one of the best foreign books of 2009 in Germany.  Bound to Secrecy was actually published in 2007 but in Dutch, and is now set to be released in English in May 2010.

Vamba’s story is an interesting one. He is from Liberia, an English speaking country, but has written best-selling novels in Dutch, a language he did not grow up speaking. He spent a substantial part of his youth in Kuwait, where he completed high school. While there he immersed himself in Arab, European and African literature. Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, because his country Liberia was at war, he was forced to flee for his life to the Netherlands, where he read law. The dual thrusts of exile and loneliness combined with an intuition that his memories and anxieties should be committed to paper drove him to writing: “…I reached back into my memories and wrote down stories. Stories that my grandmother had told me in Liberia.” The result was his first novel, Het Land van de Vaders (The Land of the Fathers1999), published at the age of 26.

William Mawolo, a stranger from Monrovia, arrives in the border town of Wologizi on a secret mission to investigate the disappearance of the local paramount chief. His mission is complicated by the suspicion with which the local population treat him, and his infatuation with Makemeh, the mysterious daughter of the chief. Her apparent indifference to her father’s disappearance serves only to draw him dangerously closer to Makemeh. In the tradition of supernatural detective fiction, William’s task takes second place to his role in the community, and the more he discovers, the closer he brings himself to his own demise. He asserts his authority over the townspeople, as envoy of the President, but this only serves to bolster his ego and antagonize the locals even further. While built around the structure of the traditional detective form, Bound to Secrecy is as much about the use and abuse of power in dysfunctional states as it is about the quest for truth. As Liberia still recovers from a brutal civil war, this work offers a surprising view of the insidious grip of absolute power and its corruptible nature, and the forces, and ordinary people, trapped within its web.

Bound to Secrecy by Vamba Sherif
Published: April 2010
Pre-order HERE.

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