The Spice of Life by Jérôme Nouhouaï
Nelson Kangni is studying Law. He shares a one-bedroom flat with two fellow students: Jojo, an engineer, obsessed with girls and money, and Malcolm, a brooding Pan-African intellectual. Ordinarily conscientious, Nelson finds himself distracted by Josiane, the captivatingly beautiful daughter of a former government minister with a very watchful eye.
While Nelson takes a slow and serious approach to romance, the insatiable Jojo spends all his time in bed with a young servant from the town's richest household, and Malcolm is consumed by darker thoughts. He tells a dubious Nelson that treacherous, greedy Lebanese immigrants are the root of all Benin’s problems. When a Lebanese shopkeeper is attacked, another has his business torched, and a third is kidnapped and found dead, Nelson’s suspicions reluctantly turn to Malcolm.
This funny, fiercely ironic debut offers a rare portrait of student life in Benin, and a new take on racial tension and xenophobia.
Jérôme Nouhouaï was born in 1973, in Abomey, Benin. He has participated in the Caravane du livre, a project to promote reading in African schools, and currently works for a research institute in Benin. Nouhouaï has written two novels: Le piment des plus beaux jours (Le Serpent à Plumes, 2010), a darkly ironic portrait of student life in Benin, and La mort du lendemain (Présence Africaine, 2010), a revenge tale set against a backdrop of poverty, corruption and civil war.