Seeking Whom He May Devour

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Book: Seeking Whom He May Devour Read Online Free PDF
Author: Fred Vargas
came after? A load of nonsense if you ask me. Why can’t he be Gérard, like a normal person? Where does his mother think he came from? A leg of lamb?”
    There was a ripple of laughter, which quickly subsided. You had to admit, Lucie would add, that the folk of Saint-Victor weren’t all bloody idiots, they could restrain themselves when push came to shove. Not like the Pierrefort lot, who held nothing sacred.
    Meanwhile the baby’s little black head was still nestling in the big woman’s armpit. How old could he be? Four weeks at the most. And whom did he love? Suzanne. Life is like that.
    “Right,” said Suzanne, looking the crowd up and down from the church steps. “If anyone comes asking for him, he’s up at Les Écarts.”
    And that settled it.
    No-one ever did come asking for wee Soliman Melchior Samba Diawara. But occasionally people wondered what would have happened if the boy’s natural mother really had come back to claim him. Because from that crucial moment – “the business on the steps”, villagers called it – Suzanne Rosselin had grown fiercely attached to the child and it wasn’t obvious she would have given him up without a fight. It took two years for the local notary to persuade her to get the official paperwork dealt with. Not to adopt the child, she wasn’t allowed to do that, but to become his legal guardian.
    And that’s how baby Soliman became the Rosselin lad. Suzanne raised him like he was a local born and bred, but in her heart of hearts she treated him as if he were an African king, believing in a muddled sort of way that he was a bastard prince who’d been discarded by some powerful dynasty. Seeing how handsome he became – a real Adonis – he couldn’t be anything less. At the age of twenty-three young Soliman Melchior was as conversant with grafting tomato plants, pressing olives, cultivating chickpeas and spreading muck as he was with the traditions and lore of sub-Saharan Africa. All that he knew about sheep had been taught him by Watchee. And all he knew about Africa, its glories and misfortunes, its stories and legends, had been taught him by the books that Suzanne scrupulously sought out and read to him, thereby making herself a highly knowledgeable Africanist too.
    Even now Suzanne kept a weather eye open for serious television documentaries that would broaden the young man’s education – on repairing a tanker-truck on a Ghanaian highway, on the green monkeys of Tanzania, on polygamy in Mali, on dictators, civil wars and coups d’état, or the origins and glories of the Kingdom of Benin.
    “Sol!” she would cry out. “Get in here! Your place is on TV!”
    Suzanne had never been able to decide to her complete satisfaction which African country Soliman came from, so she found it simpler to treat the whole of black Africa as “his place”. And there was no question of the boy skiving a single one of these documentaries. Only once, when he was seventeen, had he attempted rebellion.
    “I don’t give two damns about these guys,” he moaned, as a report on hunting warthogs dragged out on screen.
    And for the first and last time Suzanne responded by slapping his face.
    “Don’t you ever talk about your own folk that way!” she commanded.
    But as Soliman was on the verge of tears, she tried to explain things in a kindlier way, clasping the boy’s slim shoulder with her outsized mitt.
    “Look, Sol, you don’t have to give a tinker’s fart for the country you’re born in. You’re born where you’re born and that’s that. But you have to stop short of rejecting your own folk, because that can land you in a load of shit. What’s bad is the rejecting. Rejection, denial, contempt – that ’s for little big men with nasty minds, who think they made themselves all on their own and owe nothing to nobody what came before. Fuckwits, right? You’ve got Les Écarts behind you and you’ve also got the whole of Africa. Take both, two helpings is better than
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