Deux secondes d’air qui brûle

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Diaty Diallo is a poet and performer in addition to being a critically acclaimed novelist and her expansive creative vision is apparent in this stunning sophomore novel. It is a story about a group of boys whose lives are bounded and defined by violence, authoritarianism, and racism, but also by friendship, community, solidarity. The act of extreme violence that is the sparking point of the novel feels inevitable from the start. This is a conflagration waiting to alight.

But Diallo isn’t interested in just telling a story about trauma or subjugation. This is really a story about the way self-determination and love and kindness can flourish despite outside circumstances. She lingers on the boys’ tenderness, their resourcefulness, the weight and righteousness of their anger that would burn down the whole world if it could. In this sense, it reminded me of the film Divines (2016) by Houda Benyamina, which similarly centers around a moment of rupture, but is ultimately a story about the power of caring for each other in the face of a ruthless and neglectful world.

Deux secondes d’air qui brûle by Diaty Diallo, éditions du Seuil/Points

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Miriam Gordis is a bookseller and English language buyer at Albertine. She previously worked in book publishing, most recently as a literary scout. She has served as a reader for the Whiting Award for Nonfiction and the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award. Originally from California, she has worked as a legal translator in Paris and as a copyeditor in Moscow. She is a lover of non-fiction, visual art, pilates, and sunshine.
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