A landmark bestseller in Italy, I Was an Elephant Salesman gives a name and a face to the thousands of anonymous African street vendors in cities across Europe. Through the voice of a thinly veiled first-person narrator, Pap Khouma offers us a chilling, intimate, and often ironic glimpse into the life of an illegal immigrant. Khouma invents a life for himself as an itinerant trader of carved elephants, small ivories, and other "African" trinkets, struggling to maintain courage and dignity in the face of despair and humiliation. Constantly on the run from the authorities, he finds insight into the vicissitudes of law and politics, the constraints of citizenship, national borders, skin color, and the often paralyzing difficulties of obtaining basic human needs. His story reveals a contemporary Europe struggling to come to terms with its multiracial, multireligious, and multicultural identity.
Pap Khouma is author of Nonno Dio e gli spiriti danzanti [Grandfather god and the dancing spirits] and founding editor of El Ghibli, an online journal of migrant literature. Rebecca Hopkins teaches English and writing at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Bologna, Italy. Graziella Parati is Professor of Italian at Dartmouth College. She is author of Migration Italy.
Translator's Preface Introduction by Graziella Parati Selling Illegal Africa The Market in Abidjan DakarRiccione Street-Smart... Beach-Smart Italian Money Paolo il Nero Girls from Senegal Police... Just Joking! Germany via Paris A Month in Paris The Foreign Legion From Paris to Riccione The Car-House Double Malaw Chief Laman A Senegalese Lunch A Dresser in Piacenza The End of Ma Milanese Chronicles A Run on the Beach Dakar via Moscow Life in Senegal A Tourist in Rome To Catch a Thief Lacoste Fights in the Metro Changes Political Accusations Children