Canongate is to publish Sulaiman Addonia’s The Seers, a novel exploring an Eritrean refugee's first weeks in London.
Set around a foster home in Kilburn in north-west London, the novel explores the first weeks in the capital of an Eritrean unaccompanied minor refugee. Hannah arrives with her mother’s diary, containing a disturbing sexual story taking place in the same mountains of Keren, Eritrea, where the Allies defeated the Italians in the Second World War.
As well as giving a glimpse into the UK asylum system and what it does to the mental health of young refugees, and how the intergenerational history of colonisation affects sexual and intimate relationships, The Seers is also said to detail the sexual conquests of queer young African immigrants in London, who are fluid, trans and androgynous.
Ellah Wakatama, editor-at-large, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada but including translation) from Jessica Craig at Craig Literary. US rights were sold to Graywolf Press.
Addonia is a British-Eritrean-Ethiopian novelist who fled Eritrea as a refugee in childhood. He spent his early life in a refugee camp in Sudan following the Om Hajar massacre in 1976, and in his early teens he lived and studied in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He arrived in London as an underage unaccompanied refugee without speaking a word of English, and went on to earn an MA in Development Studies from SOAS and a BSc in Economics from UCL. His debut novel, The Consequences of Love (Chatto & Windus, 2008), was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and was translated into more than 20 languages. His second novel, Silence is My Mother Tongue (Indigo Press, 2019, and Graywolf, 2020), was longlisted for the Orwell Prize for Fiction. He is also a contributor to the anthology Tales of Two Planets (Penguin, 2020, edited by John Freeman) and Addis Ababa Noir (Akashic Books, 2020, edited by Maaza Mengiste).
Addonia currently lives in Brussels, where he has launched a creative writing academy for refugees and asylum seekers, and the Asmara-Addis Literary Festival (In Exile).
Commenting on his novel, he said: "I’m overjoyed to be reunited with Ellah Wakatama, an editor I feel understands my vision as a writer, and super excited to work with her and the amazing Canongate team. I can’t wait to share The Seers with readers. It’s a book that I hadn’t planned and instead came to me one afternoon as I stood in front of Flagey Ponds, Brussels, during last year's spring lockdown. I wrote it all on my iPhone and in about three weeks. It was like a volcano erupting with words, ideas and feelings that I had no control over. Writing about Hannah’s fast life in London was a thrilling ride that I’ll never forget."
Wakatama said: "Sulaiman’s continued exploration of the intimate and erotic lives of those on the margins of society fascinates me. He is always brave and innovative; the work always feels urgent and necessary. He is one of the most thoughtful, ambitious and bold writers I know, and it’s a privilege to have this chance to publish him at Canongate."