French-Senegalese author and Booker prize winner David Diop has a new novel coming out on September 19. Titled Beyond the Door of No Return, the book chronicles a love story between a botanist and a female slave, and is set in 19th century Senegal during the time of the transatlantic slave trade. Translated by Sam Taylor, the novel will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers.
After Diop won the International Booker Prize in 2021 for his novel At Night All Blood is Black, readers have been impatient to see what Diop writes next. His new novel promises to be equally exciting and full of narrative possibility as his previous one. Diop’s Beyond the Door of No Return draws on the lyricism of Senegal’s rich oral traditions and stays close to the realities of history while still maintaining sensitivity.
This historical epic will transport you to the early nineteenth century immediately. The novel starts off with the main character, botanist Michel Adanson, lying on his deathbed and uttering his last word – Maram, his secret lover’s name. What follows is a whirlwind of a story involving Adanson’s hidden memoir, Maram’s escape from slavery, and a love story that resists the violence of French colonial occupation and the isolation of the Senegalese bush.
Read the full synopsis below:
Paris, 1806. The renowned botanist Michel Adanson lies on his deathbed, the masterwork to which he dedicated his life still incomplete. As he expires, the last word to escape his lips is a woman’s name: Maram.
The key to this mysterious woman’s identity is Adanson’s unpublished memoir of the years he spent in Senegal, concealed in a secret compartment in a chest of drawers. Therein lies a story as fantastical as it is tragic: Maram, it turns out, is none other than the fabled revenant. A young woman of noble birth from the kingdom of Waalo, Maram was sold into slavery but managed to escape from the Island of Gorée—a major embarkation point of the transatlantic slave trade—to a small village hidden in the forest. While on a research expedition in West Africa as a young man, Adanson hears the story of the revenant and becomes obsessed with finding her. Accompanied by his guide, he ventures deep into the Senegalese bush on a journey that reveals not only the savagery of the French colonial occupation but also the unlikely transports of the human heart.
We cannot wait to read this powerful love story set in such a dark but thrilling part of Senegalese history. Diop’s writing is always mesmerizing and Beyond the Door of No Return will not disappoint fans!
David Diop was born in Paris and raised in Senegal. He is a professor of literature at the University of Pau in France where he researched 18th century French literature. His first novel to be published in English, At Night All Blood Is Black, was awarded the International Booker Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for fiction.
The translator of Beyond the Door of No Return, Sam Taylor is an award-winning literary translator and novelist. He has translated more than sixty books from the French, including Leïla Slimani’s The Perfect Nanny.
Congrats to Diop on the upcoming book! Preorder here.