Globe and Mail Best 100 Book of 2015
The secret world of Mauritian street-gangs is not for the faint of heart. Fraught with peril and mischief, its inner workings are a mystery to the daughter of one of its most valued members: Serge, the Grand Menteur. A liar of exceptional caliber whose sole responsibility is to purposefully confuse police with alibis, the Menteur fears for the criminal future he has unwittingly introduced into his daughter's life, when her clear knack for violence attracts the notice of senior gang members.
Mauritian Kreol, English, and French blend together into a heady brew of language in Grand Menteur. Written in a nuanced style reflecting the island-nation's convoluted history of colonialism, this debut novel by Jean Marc Ah-Sen sheds an unflinching light on the poverty and down-and-out hardship of a shadow class of immigrants from the 1940s to the '80s.
Their story, with elements of child/parent relations and the tumultuous emotions tied to leaving home for greener pastures, will resonate with readers familiar with diasporic fiction, adventure and travelogue writing, and 'lock, stock and barrel' British crime fiction.
Praise for Grand Menteur:
"Jean Marc Ah-Sen's Grand Menteur is a dazzling display of diction, filled with Mauritian Kreol, Latin tags and masterful English, with wonderful narrative momentum. From the island of Mauritius to the island of England and later, homeless shelters in Toronto, it is a fascinating story of Mauritian street gangs, emigration, capers that don't pay, and a father-daughter relationship like no other. Jean Marc Ah-Sen's Grand Menteur is voice-driven fiction at its lyrical best. "
--John Goldbach, author of The Devil and The Detective
"What a strange and extraordinary book -- it reads like a magic trick no one's ever done before or a myth of a myth -- it's too mysterious, too original, too funny, too pure, too profound to be the work of a mortal being. " --Lee Henderson
"Jean-Marc Ah-Sen's Grand Menteur is a playful yet searing intersection of narrative form and language. Ah-Sen's admirable linguistic dexterity succeeds in drawing the reader into caring deeply for the father-daughter relationship that is the heart of this innovative novel. This is a fine balance to achieve. Ah-Sen does so with compassion and flare. " --Nadia Bozak, author of Orphan Love and El Nino