The Silence of the Spirits

The Silence of the Spirits

Wilfried N'Sondé, foreword by Dominic Thomas, edited by Karen Lindo, translated by Karen Lindo
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 08/07/2017
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-253-02894-5
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What are the limits of empathy and forgiveness? How can someone with a shameful past find a new path that allows for both healing and reckoning? When Clovis and Christelle find themselves face-to-face on a train heading to the outskirts of Paris, their unexpected encounter propels them on a cathartic journey toward understanding the other, mediated by their respective histories of violence. Clovis, a young undocumented African, struggles with the pain and shame of his brutal childhood, abusive exploits as a child soldier, and road to exile. Christelle, a young French nurse, has her own dark experiences but translates her suffering into an unusual capacity for empathy, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Christelle opens her home and heart to Clovis and presses him to tell his story. But how will she react to that story? Will the telling start Clovis on a path to redemption or alienate him further from French society? Wilfried N'Sondé's brave novel confronts French attitudes toward immigrants, pushes moral imagination to its limits, and constructs a world where the past must be confronted in order to map the future.

Author Bio

Wilfried N’Sondé was born in 1969 in the Congo (Brazzaville) and grew up in France. He is widely considered one of the shining lights of the new generation of African and Afropean writers. His work has received considerable critical attention and been recognized with prestigious literary awards, including the Prix des Cinq Continents de la Francophonie and the Prix Senghor de la création littéraire.

Karen Lindo is a scholar of French and francophone literatures and currently teaches and translates in Paris.

Dominic Thomas is Professor of French and Francophone Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.


“Whether writing or singing, Wilfried N’Sondé vibrates with a heritage he has embraced.”
 — Histoires ordinaires

“A modern writer that never ceases to surprise his readers.”
 — Histoires ordinaires

“N’Sondé deploys a lively, rhythmic style that draws its precision from his experiences of exile and uprooted, recurring themes in his work.”
 — Etonnants Voyageurs

“[N'Sonde has] a lyrical and bountiful style.”
 — Virginia Bart, Le Monde

“[From] the precise and poetic pen of the Congolese novelist Wilfried N’Sondé.”
 — Tirthankar Chanda, Radio France Internationale

“Through the allegory of a single encounter between two people in a city of millions, this novel expertly investigates the precariousness of social order in a time of increasing intolerance toward outsiders.”
 — Publishers Weekly

“Scarifying and memorable and worthy of a place alongside the best modern African writing.”
 — Kirkus Reviews (Starred)

The Silence of the Spirits, by Wilfried N’Sondé, is a slim novel that delivers a deep slice of the human experience in luminous prose—moving, memorable, and beautifully crafted.”
 — Foreword Reviews (Starred)

“"N'Sonde's broader message concerns hostility toward illegal immigrants and the danger for those who provide shelter to them. Originally written in 2009, this powerful story is narrated in Clovis's voice and unfolds through his desperate but hopeful eyes."”
 — DK Publishing

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