This award-winning novel by playwright Wadji Mouawad is a thriller and a road novel – written in the North African storytelling tradition in which events unfold from an animal point of view.
The novel opens with a brutal murder: the protagonist arrives home to find his wife lying in a pool of blood. Driven by grief and the need to find whoever did this – “I want to see his face, I want to know who he is” – the protagonist sets out on desperate journey from Montreal to Indian reserves along the Canada–U.S. border, south through Civil War sites in the Midwest, to Animas, New Mexico. The furious odyssey awakens long-buried memories that make present circumstances even more painful.
This masterful novel is told in a bestiary of voices, more than fifty animals, birds, and insects, each with their own characterization and style of speaking, reveal the unflattering contrast between the human and the natural. Violent and dark, the novel nevertheless moves beyond the thriller genre to become a book of multiple levels, rich in symbolism and open to complex interpretation. While set in North America, Mouawad’s Lebanese roots suffuse the text, which becomes an examination of cultural influences and at the same time an excavation of childhood trauma and the legacy of war.
Anima has resonated with readers worldwide. It’s been translated into German, Italian, Spanish, and Catalan. It won the Thyde Monnier Grand Prize from the Société des Gens de Lettres, the Mediterranean Prize, the Literary Prize for a Second Novel in Laval, the Golden Alga Award, the Phoenix Award (as part of the Beirut Spring Festival), and the Catalan Llibreter Prize for Foreign Novel, all in 2012 and 2013. In 2015, Anima won the Lire en Poche, a prize awarded annually in France in celebration of the paperback book. An elegant translation by Linda Gaboriau brings this celebrated novel to English readers.
Praise for the French novel:
"This enigmatic character will be seen in the course of the novel by unusual witnesses to his experience, but immediately the reader understands that Wahhch is himself a sort of stranger in the Camusian sense of the term; foreign to the world, he dissociates himself to the point that he is almost deliberately schizophrenic in order to endure the pain that afflicts him. It is precisely the agony that he drags along with him, a silent, diffuse, animal pain, imprinted from childhood, we learn later, which is felt by the least living being in contact with him, from the cat to the raven, through the earthworm, the gnat, the skunk, the vulture ... and even the reader (Lector lectoransis domesticus)."