“When it was good, it was very good” – The Fugitives by Jamal Mahjoub

IMG_2023-2-2-035927The Fugitives is an interesting exploration of colonialism in reverse. A Khartoum jazz band of former times is resurrected and gets the chance to visit Washington DC, the colonised meet the colonial power.

The novel explores the themes of modern America, inclusion and exclusion, the surveillance state, race, and the phenomena of Trump’s America.

The first section of the novel concentrates on the assembly of the new jazz  group in Africa. It is an enjoyable, comical  account, pushed forward through dialogue and has a chatty informality in its study of a place and a people. The second section has several plot twists and some features of a modern thriller. I wasn’t as sure if the narrative carried through dialogue approach worked as well here, as the events of the novel tightened around the Khartoum Jazz Band. Where descriptive passages work well,  the pace of the novel speeds up to create narrative impetus.

I liked the first half of the novel most of all. Here the characters emerge through dialogue. It reminded me of V.S.Naipaul’s Miguel Street, no bad thing, and the films The Magnificent Seven and Ocean’s Eleven as the companies assemble to carry out their deeds. When the novel locates the reader in a setting with the characters it is at its most effective:

“The storm washed us out of Washington like rats spooled from the deck of a sinking ship. It was no longer snowing. Instead, plump raindrops slapped heavily onto the windscreen. One moment we were being feted and the next the city was casting us out.”

Any Cop?: The story worked in parts – when it was good it was very good.

Richard Clegg

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.