Sulaiman Addonia’s The Seers, About an Eritrean Refugee in London, Goes to Canongate

The Eritrean-Ethiopian’s third novel has been acquired by Canongate’s Ellah Wakatama in the UK and the Commonwealth and by Graywolf Press in the US.
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Sulaiman Addonia by Sulaiman Addonia.

Sulaiman Addonia by Sulaiman Addonia.

Sulaiman Addonia’s third novel, The Seers, will be published by Canongate Books. The novel is set in Kilburn, London and Keren, Eritrea, and will centre on an Eritrean refugee’s first weeks in London.

The Bookseller wrote: “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.”

Sulaiman Addonia is the author of The Consequences of Love, a love story set in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, which was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. His second novel, Silence Is My Mother Tongue, was longlisted for the 2019 Orwell Prize for Political Fiction and is currently shortlisted at the 2021 Lambda Awards, in the category of Bisexual Fiction.

Addonia was born to an Eritrean mother and an Ethiopian father. He spent his early life in a refugee camp in Sudan following the Om Hajar massacre in 1976. In his early teens, he lived and studied in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and has lived in London since 1990.

“I can’t wait to share The Seers with readers,” Addonia told OPEN COUNTRY MAG. “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. As a writer, I like to challenge myself and when my brother told me that Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote The Gambler, a novel I like, in three weeks, I entered a playful duel with the great Russian writer. If he can do a novel in three weeks, so can I, I thought.”

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He wrote all of The Seers on his iPhone “in about three weeks and a bit. So probably Dostoevsky won by a few days,” he joked, “but I loved the process. 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.”

The rights were sold by his agency Craig Literary. UK and Commonwealth rights were acquired by Ellah Wakatama at Canongate and US rights by Graywolf Press.

“I’m delighted to be reunited with Ellah Wakatama,” Addonia said. “She’s one of the best. She understands my vision and we challenge each other. I can’t wait to continue what we started with Silence Is My Mother Tongue. I’m also super excited to work with the amazing teams at Canongate and the awesome Graywolf, and the formidable, warm publisher, Fiona McCrae.”

Paula Willie-Okafor
Paula Willie-Okafor is a staff writer at Open Country Mag. She is a student at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where she is custodian of The Writers' Community (TWC). Her writing has appeared in Kissing Dynamite Magazine and Praxis Magazine.

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