Pierre Deram’s first book Djibouti was released last June, he is a young author and judging by this book we haven’t heard the last of him.
This book is about Markus, a French soldier and his last night in Djibouti after a 6 months tour of duty. Djibouti is a particularly inhospitable strip of land which controls the entry to the Red Sea, and in the first third of the book Deram explains to us just how extreme this city is during the day, from his arrival in Djbouti “Six months since that first day on the burning Tarmac ; so hot that he thought it must be due to the jet engines, but it was only the khamsin”,*** through the soldier’s folk memory “One day, a soldier was lost in the middle of the desert during manoeuvres. They found him in the evening on the road to Dikhil, completely naked, burnt from head to toe, his face eaten by the sun, green, full of puss, almost skinless.”***
His precisely written descriptions leave us in no doubt as to the difficulty of living there with an economy seemingly built solely around the military presence, bars, clubs, taxi’s and prostitutes. We learn how these people survive, “Towards six in the evening, the sun finally disappears over the horizon, leaving behind a landscape of dust and people with nothing. So in the last reddish remnants of daylight, ignoring water and food, the people of Djibouti, warn out by thirst and fatigue, head in droves for the stalls piled high with the green bouquets of the magic drug…Khat.”***
Then begins the night, full of senseless violence, drunkenness and crudely described sex. Legionnaire and soldier, soldier and prostitute, soldiers and refugees.
Deram presents a soldier’s drinking game as an allegory where with escalating violence, two soldiers blindfolded and hands tied behind their backs fight by head butts until only one is left standing, as Markus asks later “have you ever had the feeling, madam? That the world is bankrupt…that we all wander around blindfolded, completely lost in a drunken night.”***
This was a short, well written book with an engaging subject matter, Djibouti May be strategic but life there is pointless. This book is worth a translation and we will hear much more of Deram
Published in French in 2015 by Libella