One of our recommended books is The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana by Maryse Conde

THE WONDROUS AND TRAGIC LIFE OF IVAN AND IVANA


Born in Guadeloupe, Ivan and Ivana are twins with a bond so strong they become afraid of their feelings for one another. When their mother sends them off to live with their father in Mali they begin to grow apart, until, as young adults in Paris, Ivana’s youthful altruism compels her to join the police academy, while Ivan, stunted by early experiences of rejection and exploitation, walks the path of radicalization. The twins, unable to live either with or without each other, become perpetrator and victim in a wave of violent attacks. In The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana,

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Born in Guadeloupe, Ivan and Ivana are twins with a bond so strong they become afraid of their feelings for one another. When their mother sends them off to live with their father in Mali they begin to grow apart, until, as young adults in Paris, Ivana’s youthful altruism compels her to join the police academy, while Ivan, stunted by early experiences of rejection and exploitation, walks the path of radicalization. The twins, unable to live either with or without each other, become perpetrator and victim in a wave of violent attacks. In The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana, Maryse Condé, winner of the 2018 Alternative Nobel prize in literature, touches upon major contemporary issues such as racism, terrorism, political corruption, economic inequality, globalization, and migration.

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  • World Editions
  • Paperback
  • May 2020
  • 272 Pages
  • 9781642860696

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$16.99

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About Maryse Condé

Maryse Condé was born in Guadeloupe in 1937 as the youngest of eight siblings and currently lives in the South of France. She was awarded the African Literature Prize for her worldwide bestseller Segu and the New Academy Prize (the “Alternative Nobel”) in Literature in 2018 for her oeuvre.

Praise

“What an astounding novel. Never have I read anything so wild and loving, so tender and ruthless. Condé is one of our greatest writers, a literary sorcerer but here she has outdone even herself, summoned a storm from out of the world’s troubled heart. Ivan and Ivana, in their love, in their Attic fates, mirror our species’ terrible brokenness and it’s improbable grace.”Junot Díaz

“[Condé is] at her signature best: offering complex, polyphonic and ultimately shattering stories whose provocations linger long after [the] final pages. The book is a reflection on the dangers of binary thinking…One is never on steady ground with Condé; she is not an ideologue, and hers is not the kind of liberal, safe, down-the-line morality that leaves the reader unimplicated.” —Justin Torres, The New York Times

Discussion Questions

1. How do you interpret the reference to William Shakespeare’s Hamlet on the very first page of the novel?

2. What role does gender play in determining the fates of Ivan and Ivana?

3. How much control do Ivan and Ivana have over their lives, and how much rests in the hands of other forces—their mother, their father, society, racism, etc?

4. What do you think of the character of the dibia? How does he influence the characters and plot of the novel? Do you have a sort of dibia in your own life?

5. What role does religion play in the forces of radicalization? What role does gender play?

6. How do you interpret the first-person plural narrator that appears throughout?

7. How does oral tradition inform the novel in terms of structure, plot, etc?

8. On page 161, the narrator admits, “Once again we have very little reliable information as to what happened next.” From where do you think the narrator has gotten this story? How many iterations of the story must there be, and what version of it do you think this is?

9. How does the presence of an unreliable narrator change the way you absorb the story?

10. What is the role of geography in the novel? How does it affect the fates of the twins? In what ways is it its own character?