Short Story Rec: “Ogres of East Africa” by Sofia Samatar

You can listen to the story for free over at Pocastle, or you can pick up a copy of Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction From the Margins of History.

I find myself adding it in the margins. There is a strange pleasure in this writing and not-writing, these letters that hang between revelation and oblivion.

If my employer discovered these notes, he would call them impudence, cunning, a trick. What would I say in my defense? “Sir, I was unable to tell you. Sir, I was unable to speak of the weeping mother of Kiptegen.”

He would laugh: he believes that all words are found in his language.

This just a stunning piece of short fiction. Samatar is telling many stories at once here–or, perhaps, a single story stretched across many levels–and she does so beautifully, masterfully.

Alibhai and Mary are hired by a White hunter for a trip to go hunting the ogres of East Africa; that’s the most basic reading of the story on the surface. But every element of the story is in conversation with every other element. Everything is symbolic and not symbolic at the same time. Alibhai is both a representative of marginalized people, a person speaking back against literally hundreds of years of narratives speaking over him, and a finely realized individual. Symbolic, yes, but also specific. Everything works at every level.

And the ending is phenomenal.


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