Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel was born in 1966 in Equatorial Guinea, Africa’s only Spanish-speaking country. His parents were from the remote Annobón Island, off the African coast. His books include the novel Avión de Ricos, Ladrón De Cerdos (The Pig Thief And The Rich Man’s Aeroplane) and the short story collection Cuentos Crudos (Raw Tales). By Night The Mountain Burns (Arde El Monte De Noche), his most recent novel, is based on his memories of growing up on Annobón.
Ávila Laurel has been a constant thorn in the side of his country’s long-standing dictatorial government. A nurse by profession, for many years he was one of the best known Equatorial Guinean writers not to have opted to live in exile. But, in 2011, after a week-long hunger strike in protest against Obiang’s regime, timed to coincide with the President of Spain’s visit to Equatorial Guinea, Ávila Laurel moved to Barcelona. He writes across all media, in particular as a blogger, essayist and novelist.
By Night the Mountain Burns
- Translated by Jethro Soutar.
- Read more about By Night the Mountain Burns in the book section.
- By Night the Mountain Burns was one of the titles in our Spanish Reading Group in Autumn 2012.
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- Read about Ávila Laurel’s hunger strike on the Guardian website, here.
- Read Ávila Laurel’s blog (in Spanish) here.
- An early collection of Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel’s short stories and poetry is published online in Spanish: http://www.guineanos.org/
- Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel was the cover star of the September 2012 World Literature Today magazine: http://www.worldliteraturetoday.com/2012/september
Advance Praise for By Night the Mountain Burns
‘In this poignant novel by one of Equatorial Guinea’s most celebrated authors, a series of tragedies strikes a small Atlantic Ocean isle after a foreign fishing vessel appears off the coast… Laurel’s approach is ethnographic and uses an islander’s first-person perspective to provide brief histories of the culture, terrain, and habitat. Although the narrative voice is sometimes repetitive and intentionally elusive, the descriptions of the island’s creatures, customs, language, and lore lead to clever revelations in the plot. The choice in point of view is one of the book’s strongest aspects, and the unnamed narrator’s conversational, indirect style is fitting. This fascinating story emerges from the speaker’s inquiries into the identities and social laws of his community, and from his attempts to make sense of the calamities of his homeland.’ Publishers Weekly
‘Ávila Laurel’s novel tells of survival in fierce isolation, a place where the ocean provides the only horizon and is a source of the greatest hopes and the most awful fears.’ Alfonso Carnicero Izquierdo
‘It has fallen to Ávila Laurel to be the chronicler of Annobón, just as Derek Walcott is for St Lucia, VS Naipaul for Trinidad and Edwidge Danticat is for Haiti. To this list must now be added the name of Annobón, half-evoked and half-dreamed in Ávila Laurel’s unique language.’ JM Pedrosa
‘The Equatorial Guinean novel that has perhaps captivated me the most is By Night The Mountain Burns by Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel. It is a story of great mystery, but also a testimonial to life on Annobón Island. This real-life island seems to emerge from the sea like some Atlantic legend, but the harsh conditions to which the islanders have been subjected mean we’re a long way from charming tales of mariners and mermaids. In these large-leaved green forests, the horror stories are all too real.’ Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón, El País
‘Reading [By Night the Mountain Burns], it’s hard not to feel the excitement that comes with discovering a great author; the rare exhilaration that strikes once every few hundred books … It is the perfectly pitched tone, however, and the simplicity of the recounting that make it a truly polished work … The result is a luminous tapestry of people reacting in different ways to the assaults of natural catastrophes, accidents and economic hardship.’ Patricia Duffaud, The Bookbag