Fisherman's blues A West African community at sea

Anna Badkhen, 1976-

Book - 2018

"An intimate account of life in a West African fishing village, tugged by currents ancient and modern, and dependent on an ocean that is being radically transformed. The sea is broken, fishermen say. The sea is empty. The genii have taken the fish elsewhere. For centuries, fishermen have launched their pirogues from the Senegalese port of Joal, where the fish used to be so plentiful a man could dip his hand into the grey-green ocean and pull one out as big as his thigh. But in an Atlantic d...ecimated by overfishing and climate change, the fish are harder and harder to find. Here, Badkhen discovers, all boundaries are permeable--between land and sea, between myth and truth, even between storyteller and story. Fisherman's Blues immerses us in a community navigating a time of unprecedented environmental, economic, and cultural upheaval with resilience, ingenuity, and wonder"--

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Subjects
Published
New York : Riverhead Books 2018.
Language
English
Physical Description
287 pages : illustrations, maps ; 22 cm
ISBN
9781594634864
1594634866
Main Author
Anna Badkhen, 1976- (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

After unspooling a net near a shipwreck where fish have been known to gather, a fisherman pauses in his work to snap a selfie with his phone. Off the coast of Senegal, traditional and modern ways of life often collide in the fishing village that journalist Badkhen brings vividly to life. Prayers to genies and otherlocal customs go hand-in-hand with innovations such as GPS technology. Fishing was not a major industry here until recently, which means that many of the fishermen and their families came to the port town of Joal from elsewhere. The boom years of fishing have evaporated, leaving many of them grasping for ways to make a living as the once-bountiful ocean becomes more like a desert. Badkhen follows one fisherman in particular, Ndongo, who quit school to become a fisherman when he was 11 years old, and now must support his three wives and their children. Badkhen is a spellbinding writer, her observations at once hypnotic and elegiac, witnessing a fragile community just barely getting by. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Reporter Badkhen (The World Is a Carpet) describes her experience with fishermen in Joal, Senegal, as a member of a crew sailing on pirogues in search of a bountiful catch. Her lyrical, poetic style relates the struggles of people dependent on a lifestyle that is being depleted by overfishing and warming oceans and altered by technology such as GPS devices as well as fishing trawlers that ignore set limits and boundaries. The straightforward writing recounts clashes between developing and developed nations, and the economy and politics of daily life, while recording the myths and legends of the people, their customs, and their celebrations. Badkhen's keen observation and participatory research results in a book that gives readers a glimpse into what will be lost. VERDICT Those interested in the global environmental crisis and its impact on indigenous societies will be fascinated by this first-person account of learning about other cultures in an attempt to save our planet.—Patricia Ann Owens, formerly at Illinois Eastern Community Coll., Mt. Carmel Copyright 2018 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Journalist Badkhen (Walking with Abel) delivers an evocative, hauntingly beautiful narrative of life in Joal, a fishing village in Senegal. As she embeds herself within boat crews and frequents the seaside gazebos where the fishermen spend their time on shore, Badkhen lucidly describes the rhythm of the village's daily life (hauling the catch, building a pirogue), as well as its challenges. Between overfishing, illegal foreign ships, and climate change, Joal's catch is a tenth of what it was a decade ago. Acutely observant, Badkhen meticulously documents Joal's cuisine (po'boys with murex sauce); lore (spells for catching fish, genies); and special rituals, such as the sacrificial feast to prevent the sea's anger. She captures the fishermen, their wives, children, dreams, feuds, and banter, and her writing is descriptive and poetic. Images flash before the reader: the barefoot fishwives "in bright multi-layered headwraps and embroidered velvet bonnets" rushing down to greet the catch of the day, the ancient mounds of shells "among the brackish channels that vein the mangrove flats between the Petite Côte and the mouth of the Gambia River," and a "murmuration of weavers" flying out of an acacia tree. This is a moving tribute to a traditional way of life facing enormous change. (Mar.) Copyright 2017 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A first-hand account of life in a West African fishing village submerges readers in a community navigating a time of unprecedented environmental, economic and cultural upheaval with resilience, resourcefulness and wonder.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Explores the plight of West African fishermen in Joal, Senegal, who are enduring unprecedented environmental, economic, and cultural upheaval.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

"An intimate and unexpected account of life in the largest artisanal fishing village in West Africa, caught between the ancient and the modern, and dependent on an ocean that is being radically transformed"--

Review by Publisher Summary 4

"An intimate account of life in a West African fishing village, tugged by currents ancient and modern, and dependent on an ocean that is being radically transformed. The sea is broken, fishermen say. The sea is empty. The genii have taken the fish elsewhere.For centuries, fishermen have launched their pirogues from the Senegalese port of Joal, where the fish used to be so plentiful a man could dip his hand into the grey-green ocean and pull one out as big as his thigh. But in an Atlantic decimated by overfishing and climate change, the fish are harder and harder to find. Here, Badkhen discovers, all boundaries are permeable--between land and sea, between myth and truth, even between storyteller and story. Fisherman's Blues immerses us in a community navigating a time of unprecedented environmental, economic, and cultural upheaval with resilience, ingenuity, and wonder"--

Review by Publisher Summary 5

NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR AND PASTE MAGAZINEAn intimate account of life in a West African fishing village, tugged by currents ancient and modern, and dependent on an ocean that is being radically transformed.The sea is broken, fishermen say. The sea is empty. The genii have taken the fish elsewhere.For centuries, fishermen have launched their pirogues from the Senegalese port of Joal, where the fish used to be so plentiful a man could dip his hand into the grey-green ocean and pull one out as big as his thigh. But in an Atlantic decimated by overfishing and climate change, the fish are harder and harder to find. Here, Badkhen discovers, all boundaries are permeable--between land and sea, between myth and truth, even between storyteller and story. Fisherman's Blues immerses us in a community navigating a time of unprecedented environmental, economic, and cultural upheaval with resilience, ingenuity, and wonder.