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Yamen Manai Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The Ardent Swarm (2017)Description / Buy at Amazon

Yamen Manai
Yamen Manai was born in Tunis in the year 1980 and lives in Paris. His parents were both teachers. He studied in France, becoming an engineer, specializing in new information technologies.

He is both a writer and an engineer, and he explores the intersections of present and past, and technology and tradition, in his work.

His debut novel “La Marche de l’incertitude” was released in the year 2010 and won the Lyceens Coup de Coeur de Coup de Soleil Prize in France, and the Comar d’Or Prize in Tunisia. His next novel, called “La Serenade d’Ibrahim Santos” won the Alain-Fournier Prize and the Biblioblog Prize, and it was nominated for the Cinq continents de la Francophonie Award.

Yamen’s third novel, called “The Ardent Swarm”, was the first to be translated into English by Lara Vergnaud and released in the year 2021. In the book he celebrates the rich oral culture of Tunisia, which is a tradition that abounds in wry, often fatalistic humor.

Yamen had wanted to write a novel about the fragility of the democratic experience that Tunisia was living in after the Arab Spring, however he didn’t want to write just about men, rather men among nature. For months he was blocked because he couldn’t find the axis that would allow him to write about this democratic experience in Tunisia along with nature.

One night, he was on his couch watching National Geographic, and saw a documentary about bees and how they will behave when they get attacked by giant hornets and how they are able to defend themselves from these attacks. It was a sort of revelation for him.

Immediately, he was inspired to write this novel because he found the allegory that would permit him at the same time to speak about nature and speak about men and say that the most important thing isn’t the war between people. Instead, it should be the bees, our home, and all the nature all around us. Things that are really, truly in danger. We struggle for things without any real meaning as our homes are burning.

Yamen’s first novel was a spontaneous one, so much so that he didn’t try to look for the part of the construction compared to the temporal approach. The tale is named aptly, “the walk of uncertainty”, as he was in this step himself while writing it. He didn’t even know if the book would be published or not, so he took every single liberty he could when he wrote it. He envisioned it as one large cake that he would attack from many sides, allowing him to tell many stories at the same time, without ever losing the awareness that it was just a single cake.

His biggest challenge was then to present it as such to the reader, to allow them the chance to approach the same tale, just with several settings and many characters. For Yamen, this is a game that is quite pleasant for him to write.

“Ibrahim Santos’ Serenade” is a stand alone novel and was released in the year 2011. In the city of Santa Clara, the one which produces the very best rum in the entire country, nobody knows about the revolution that dictator Alvaro Benitez led two decades prior. The residents cultivate and live according to the serenades of a musician meteorologist named Ibrahim Santos.

And so, inevitably, the intrusion of revolutionary armed troops, and what’s more, the arrival of one intelligent young agricultural engineer is going to shake up the habits a bit.

In the mode of this story, with just a hint of magical realism, Yamen mocks the prowess of our own technological advances and cheerfully parodies each of these modern dictatorships that often endure.

“The Ardent Swarm” is a stand alone novel and was released in the year 2017. This is a stirring allegory about a country in the aftermath of a revolution and the power of a single quest.

Sidi lives a hermetic life, living as a bee whisperer, tending to his beloved “girls” on the outskirts of the desolate North African village Nawa. Sidi wakes up one morning to discover that something has just attacked one of his beehives, savagely killing all the bees. Heartbroken, he quickly finds out that a mysterious swarm of vicious hornets committed the mass murder, however where did they even come from, and how can he possibly stop them? If Sidi is even going to be able to unravel this mystery and save his bees from being annihilated, he will have to venture out into the village and then brave the big city and even beyond to find some answers.

On his journey, he finds a people and a country turned upside down because of their new post-Arab Spring reality as Islamic fundamentalists look to influence votes in any way they are able, on the eve of the first democratic elections the country has ever seen. In order for Sidi to succeed in his quest, and find even just a glimmer of hope to keep all he holds dear safe, he’ll need to look further than he ever imagined.

Yamen draws on real events that took place in the country, and constructs a revealing allegory about the opposing political forces that were at work at the time.

Yamen, in this brilliantly accessible modern parable, uses a masterful blend of drama and humor to reveal what happens in one country shaken up by revolutionary change after the world quits watching. Readers found this to be a spectacular journey, and one that is nuanced and layered that it made their hearts soar. It is a beautifully written novel and the comparison made between humans and nature is particularly poignant.

Yamen’s layered insights and lyrical prose turn what could have been just a predictable fable into a more vivid meditation on societal discord and harmony. It finds rich drama in the turbulent and tense reckoning with questions of tradition versus modernity. This novel shows the humanity, compassion, and warmth, with touches here and there of humor and sarcasm.

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