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Michel Leiris

L’Africa fantasma

Edited by Barbara Fiore
Translation by Aldo Pasquali
With 40 photographs from the Mission Dakar-Djibouti
Paperback, 748 pages, 16,5 x 22 cm
Coedited with Quodlibet, 2020
ISBN 9788822904225

Michel Leiris

L’Africa fantasma

Edited by Barbara Fiore, Translation by Aldo Pasquali, With 40 photographs from the Mission Dakar-Djibouti, Italian, Paperback, 748 pages, 16,5 x 22 cm, Coedited with Quodlibet, 2020.
ISBN 9788822904225


“Tired of the life he was leading in Paris, viewing the journey as a poetical adventure, a way to gain concrete knowledge, a trial, symbolic means by which to halt the onset of old age, travelling through space so as to deny the passage of time, the author – who is interested in ethnography by virtue of the importance that he attributes to this science in the clarification of human relationships – takes part in a scientific mission all the way across Africa.”
With these words, Michel Leiris recalls the reasons that led him to become part of the Dakar-Djibouti ethnographic and linguistic mission as secretary-archivist and researcher. A journey that was to last almost two years (May 1931 – February 1933) and which would be remembered most of all for his L’Afrique fantôme (1934; translated as Phantom Africa). Throughout this diary, “which includes a jumble of notes on events, observations, dreams and ideas,” Leiris acquires awareness of himself, of the impossibility of an objective account of such a mission, a colonial one at that, and of how every experience in the field has an initiatory and not a didactic value.

The volume, confiscated in the years of Vichy France, was then published on two other occasions (1951, 1981) edited by Leiris himself, becoming his best-known work and a literary classic – not just of travel writing – of the twentieth century. Along with 'Heart of Darkness', it is considered one of the most important books on Africa written by a Westerner.

After many years, L’Afrique fantôme is once more available to the Italian reader, edited by Barbara Fiore who – as well as adding to the notes of the various French editions – has enhanced the work with an epilogue of her own. The volume also features a text by Jean Jamin, the editor in France of Leiris’s African works, and a largely unseen set of images.


Graphic design: CCRZ

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