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AMOUR: Fields of Battle, Fields of Love (Working Titles 4.2)

The Massachusetts Review presents the latest Working Titles e-book: AMOUR: FIELDS OF BATTLE, FIELDS OF LOVE, a novella by Véronique Tadjo, translated and with an introduction by Carolyn Shread. Available now!

"One anonymous night he found himself in a tidy village. The bus came to a stop at the end of a long road that stretched out into the dark. He clambered down with his bag in one hand. His feet hit the ground with a painful thud. His swollen ankles ached.

The village was asleep. He stood there for a moment as the bus roared off. Already he wanted to leave. Then the thought crossed his mind, what’s the point? He had to stop somewhere.

It was so much easier on the bus. Trees streamed past, towns and villages sped by one after another, shadows dissipated. He could sleep and wake up and still the road ran on. The churning engine cut him off from the world. There was no remembering. He was in tune with time and could dream undisturbed. Watch the landscape while the road wound on forever, lacing endlessly through valleys, plains, and mountains.

From his seat at the back of the bus, he saw the other passengers, their necks crooked. Men, women, traveling solo or accompanied, entire families, all leaving, abandoning their past, their memories. It occurred to him that on the road we’re all the same, carried off to another life, drawn away to another world.

The moon was veiled. The stars dim. He didn’t even know the name of the village. Anyway, it didn’t matter. It seemed a somewhat featureless lost corner, one of those places where life takes a simple path.

He walked on. Dogs barked as he passed, shattering the silence of the night. He sat down on a stone bench, smoking one cigarette after another as he waited for sunrise. Soon, the cool of the morning set in and roosters crowed the dawn.

He watched day spread across the sky and pour over the ground. As he contemplated the deep, dark earth awakening and the fields of wheat standing proud, an unexpected serenity washed over him. Child-like, he pondered how long it would take to count each blade of wheat. A lifetime, no doubt. Nature was welcoming here. It invited you to play, to roll in the grass and leave the shape of your body. Where he came from, the dense forest and great savannah bore too many fearful secrets. They weren’t to be trusted or loved.

Soon enough the unsettled feeling returned. He had travelled long and far only to find himself thousands of miles away from home in a place that already was no longer foreign. Already his impatience was pawing at the ground. He thought back again to the distance he had travelled and was shocked to realize he had made no progress. Everything he saw, every fleeting thought was filtered through the prism of his African life. Perhaps that was why, here in this village, he felt strangely at ease. The heavy, rich soil unexpectedly familiar. "

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