Raw and real, Revolution is by some distance the best fictional depiction of life in contemporary Tanzania I’ve come across. Unlike Ejersbo’s previous book, Exile, this was about the real Tanzania, of the daily struggles to get by and to get on in the world of young Tanzanians living in or close to poverty. Gone, for the most part, were Exile’s unlovable and self-absorbed expat brats; I was glad to see the back of them. In their place, Revolution was built around a series of portraits of African, Indian and Arab Tanzanians, with just the odd westerner thrown in.
There was Rachel, a young girl from the village, new to town life, dreaming of love and trying to make something of her life, but finding it ever harder to make progress without being drawn into prostitution. There was an artisanal Tanzanite miner, Moses, dreaming of striking rich but finding his humanity sucked out of him by the conditions of the mines and the uncaring brutality of his bosses.
Their lives intersected only peripherally, and Ejersbo resisted what must have been a strong temptation to pull the various threads together into a single overarching plot. But this was more, much more, than a series of unconnected short stories. The themes of youth, ambition and poverty gave coherence to the whole, with all the main characters sharing a common determination to break free from the social and economic constraints that bind them and to carve out a different path.