With a nod to Samuel Beckett and Bohumil Hrabal, a young dramatist from a West African nation describes a student protest against a brutal oligarchy and its crushing aftermath. While distributing leaflets with provocative quotations from Beckett, Ito Baraka is taken to a camp where torture, starvation, beatings, and rape are normal. Forced to inform on his friends, whose fates he now fears, and released a broken man, he escapes to Quebec. His one goal is to tell the story of the protest and pay homage to Koli Lem, a teacher, cellmate, and lover of books, who was blinded by being forced to look at the sun—and is surely a symbol of the nation. Edem Awumey gives us a darkly moving and terrifying novel about fear and play, repression and protest, and the indomitable nature of creativity.
"Descent into Night, translated by Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott, is a beautifully assured rendering of a text offering many translation challenges. The translators agilely follow the text as it shifts between an ailing Quebec writer’s regrets about his life, and his long-ago involvement in a failed West African revolution, which haunts him into the present. This translation skillfully captures the lyricism of the French text."
Peer assessment committee: Dawn M. Cornelio, Peter Feldstein, Kathryn Gabinet-Kroo
Phyllis Aronoff translates fiction, non-fiction and poetry, solo or with co-translator Howard Scott. Her most recent solo translations include Black Thursday, a memoir by French journalist Maurice Rajsfus, and Message Sticks, poems by the Innu writer Joséphine Bacon. The Wanderer, her translation of La Québécoite, by Régine Robin, received a Jewish Literary Award.
Howard Scott translates novels and non-fiction, solo or with co-translator Phyllis Aronoff. He also translates poetry. His latest poetry translation is Blueberries and Apricots, by Innu writer Natasha Kanapé Fontaine. In 1997, he received a Governor General's Literary Award for his translation of The Euguelion by Louky Bersianik, and in 2017 he was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Social Myths and Collective Imaginaries, by Gérard Bouchard.
Scott and Aronoff received a Quebec Writers' Federation Translation Award for The Great Peace of Montreal of 1701.