By Ibrahim al-Koni. Elliot Colla, tr
“Those who become brothers by sharing blood are closer than those who share parentage.”
—Excerpt from Gold Dust
Central to this Libyan tragedy lies the fierce but detrimental bond between Ukhayyad, son of a Tuareg chief, and his mount, a thoroughbred Mahri camel with rare piebald coloring. Obsessed, Ukhayyad brags incessantly about his Mahri, while the mutually devoted thoroughbred distracts his master from societal duties—behaviors on both Ukhayyad and the Mahri’s parts that help bring their doom. While the pair’s attachment is poignant, it’s maddening how their behavior and external forces culminate so heartbreakingly. The story’s tragic elements symbolize the demise of Tuareg tribal traditions and of Libyans’ national aspirations in the 1980s, when Libya faced increasing global ostracization. Ibrahim al-Koni poses existential questions that pit desert against urban life, creating a story rich with Libyan history of tribal wars, foreign invasions, Tuareg mysticism and excursions across the Libyan Sahara, the novel’s third main character. Tragic but thought-provoking, this work is worthy of its critical praise and awards.