Sanje Publishing

The Name of Your Star is Bilhadi
by Magda Reja

  • original title: Ime tvoje zvezde je Bilhadi
  • novel
  • first published in 2006
  • Best Debut Novel of 2006
  • 144 pages
  • rights available: world
The Name of Your Star is Bilhadi

The Name of Your Star is Bilhadi is a deeply personal and poetic account of the author's Sahara crossing. Bilhadi is the Hassaniya word for North Star that caravans follow on their way from Tombouctou to Taoudenni. Magda Reja may be an ethnologist, but her book will tell you nothing about salt trade and its implications for the region's economy, nor is it bursting with encyclopaedic knowledge about its nomadic peoples. Instead, Magda Reja finds deceptively simple and strangely beautiful words to conjure up for the reader the great void of the desert, the sah'ra, and the life she shared with her guides, their tea ceremonies, their singing to camels and the companionable silence they found together to bridge the absence of a common language. In this startling literary debut, Magda Reja proves a subtle observer of herself and others and a brilliant writer, transforming travelogue to fully-fledged literature.

Sample French translation is available in the attachement.

Sample translation

»You’re always writing, writing ... What is it? What are you writing?«
»I write about everything I see; what we do, what we eat ... about you, look, here’s the word Mohammad, you see?«
He shakes his head. »I don’t know.«
»You can’t read?«
»No. Only a little. Mostly in Arabic.«
»I write about what you say ...«
»I don’t say much.«
»I write about how you don’t say much ...«
He laughs.
»Write down your name in Arabic.«
I expected he would plough through the paper slowly, hesitantly, awkwardly, but I see his hand dance over the page with determination and ease and leave behind two lines of elegant curvy signs that say Mouhamed Ould Sidi Ali
Mohammad son of Sidi Ali