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Fiction Literary

Dirty Feet

by (author) Edem Awumey

translated by Lazer Lederhendler

House of Anansi Press Inc
Initial publish date
Aug 2011
Literary, Cultural Heritage
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Aug 2011
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  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2011
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Nominated for the Governor General's Literary Award: Translation and the ReLit Awards

As a small child, Askia was forced, along with his family, to wander the African desert as if under a curse. First driven from their home by drought and hunger, they were then kept from the villages they passed through by the fear and suspicion of others, who did not want to see their "dirty feet" stay for too long.

Years later, it seems Askia is destined to relive his family’s curse night after night as he roams the streets of Paris in his taxi. One evening, he picks up Olia, a young woman who claims to recognize his face, telling him that his features are similar to those of a man she photographed years ago. Had it been his father, the enigmatic Sidi Ben Sylla Mohammed? The father who migrated north long before he did; the father he has so often dreamt about; the father whom he aches to meet?

With Olia’s help, Askia sets out to retrace Sidi’s steps. But before he can embark on this new journey, he must first confront his violent past. A brutal, indelibly powerful look at the harrowing, often violent lives of those who are condemned to wander.

About the authors

Edem Uwumey was born in Togo in 1975. His first novel, Port-Melo, won the Grand Prix Litteraire de L’Afrique Noire, one of the most distinguished literary prizes in Africa, and his second novel, Les pieds sales (Dirty Feet), was a finalist for one of France’s most prestigious literary prizes, the Prix Goncourt. Awumey now lives in Canada where he is a teacher.

Edem Awumey's profile page

Lazer Lederhendler is a full-time freelance translator specializing in contemporary Québécois fiction and nonfiction. His work has earned him many distinctions in Canada and abroad, including multiple nominations for the Governor General’s Literary Award, which he won in 2008 for the translation of Nikolski by Nicolas Dickner. He is also the translator of Gaétan Soucy’s novel, The Immaculate Conception, which was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Literary Award for French to English translation, and the winner of the Cole Foundation Prize for Translation awarded by the Quebec Writers’ Federation. Lazer Lederhendler lives in Montreal. 

Lazer Lederhendler's profile page


  • Long-listed, IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
  • Long-listed, ReLit Awards
  • Short-listed, Governor General's Literary Award: Translation

Editorial Reviews

... Awumey’s spare style and stark vision disrupts our complacent vision of the world we know; he challenges our belief in the universal progress of race relations ... Dirty Feet is rich in wisdom and allusion ...

Globe and Mail

The writing is beautiful [and] leaves room for the imagination.

Herald de Paris

Haunting and beautiful . . . Dirty Feet explores the nature of violence, confrontation and grants a powerful insight into the lives of those denounced to wander.

Telegraph Journal

Reading [Dirty Feet] one inevitably thinks of the recent mass flight of starving Somalis to Kenya . . . intriguing . . .

Montreal Gazette

Awumey adorns his book with short, vivid phrases that, at times, read like poems ... reveal[ing] ...

Montreal Review of Books

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