There comes a time for most of us when we knowingly face a decision of such consequence that it will drastically affect the shape of our lives. Some people are prepared to carry the weight of that decision. David Lyons, the protagonist of Gallery Bundu, was not. In Paul Stoller's work of fiction framed by African storytelling, David is the 52-year-old co-owner of Gallery Bundu, an African art shop in New York City. As a young man in the late 1960s, he joined the Peace Corps to avoid the draft. Assigned to teach English in Niger, he was eager to seek out adventure, and he found it - from drugged-out American expatriates and mamba-filled forests to seductive African women. In the course of his stay in Niger, David meets and falls in love with Zeinabou, a strikingly beautiful woman who professes her love to him, though David believes that he is not the only man she dates. Two weeks before his anticipated return to the United States, Zeinabou informs David that she is pregnant with what she believes is his child. Not knowing how to react, David flees Niger and returns to America ridden with guilt.
The hastiness of David's decision will shadow his every move for the rest of his life and will lead him to eventually return to Niger and try to make amends. Beautifully written and deeply felt, Gallery Bundu is a cautionary tale about the impulses of youth and the unyielding grip of regret. Stoller's vivid language and style allow readers, through David's recollections, to touch, taste, and smell the sensations of West Africa - the tasty aroma of a traditional African fish stew, the spectacle of witches, and the humorous and often frightening experiences of traveling in the bush. A lyrical novel of decisions and destiny, Gallery Bundu is rich in character and detail, bringing anthropology to a new literary height.
Paul Stoller teaches anthropology at West Chester University and Temple University. He is the author of numerous books including Money Has No Smell and Jaguar, both published by the University of Chicago Press.