Fall 2023 Fiction Preview: The Legend of Baraffo by Moez Surani | Book*hug Press

Fall 2023 Fiction Preview: The Legend of Baraffo by Moez Surani

Today’s Fall Fiction Preview features Moez Surani’s The Legend of Baraffo!

In Baraffo, a town gripped by revolutionary fervour, a boy named Mazzu grapples to understand the motivations of Babello, a man imprisoned for an act of arson. When Babello begins a hunger strike and another building is set ablaze, tensions mount among the citizens and Mazzu considers a risky solution.

Within an extraordinary world, this sweeping and mythical story asks prescient questions about the nature of social change: is it better accelerated by those who seek total transformation or attained by those trying to work within the system?

The Legend of Baraffo is a lucid dream of a novel, a fable fierce in its moral clarity and gorgeous at the line level. In the town of Baraffo, Moez Surani has created a place so rich in sensory detail, so wonderfully alive, as to be unforgettable. There is so much here about the nuances of longing and belonging, of intimacy and subjugation, all of it crafted from the simplest human connections—a conversation, a shared meal, a card game. This is a beautiful book, written by a bright new literary talent,”  writes Omar El Akkad, Scotiabank Giller Prize–winning author of What Strange Paradise.

We’re happy to share an introduction from Moez Surani!

In addition, we’ve selected an excerpt from the novel to share with you today. The Legend of Baraffo will be released on September 26, 2023, and is available for pre-order from our online shop or from your local independent bookstore.

There is, of course, the legend of Baraffo with which we are all familiar. That day, hundreds of years ago, when Isabella accepted a proposal, causing a generation of men to throw themselves from bridges, second-storey windows and rooftops. So many men lined up to jump from the mayor’s roof that they had to wait hours, trading jokes and gossip, for the honour of dying before her. The pile of dead suitors mounted so high that those who were late in lining up had to step carefully from the roof onto the stack of bodies, then jump to their death. Their bodies angled down from the mayor’s hilltop home—a crude staircase of affection.

It is said her dearest one met her in a garden, Isabella seated on the fountain’s ledge with a sheet of water behind her, and that after this meeting his love rainbowed to her over the distances of banishment and exile. But such exaggerations are often history’s flourishes. The truth is buried below layers of exuberant storytelling, competing reports from the rival newspapers, and Baraffo’s buoyant habit of forgetting. Averse to anything that suppresses their spirits, the people of Baraffo deny sombre thoughts, recollecting instead what is jubilant, beautiful, or readily useful. Through this forgetting, the truth of Isabella’s adoration, engagement, and illness, is dormant beneath the years of speculation and retellings that weave into a generalized, piecemeal fable.

The people of Baraffo often pause in the tumult of their unlikely lives and consider that couple’s example, and from time to time the people of the town swing their arms out wide to show the magnitude of Isabella’s beauty. “This much,” they cry.

Their lives blossom in the shade of their people’s epic.

Moez Surani’s writing has been published internationally, including in Harper’s MagazineBest American Experimental Writing 2016Best Canadian Poetry, and the Globe and Mail. He has received a Chalmers Arts Fellowship, which supported research in India and East Africa. He has been an artist-in-residence in Finland, Italy, Latvia, Myanmar, Switzerland, Taiwan, the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada, and at MacDowell in the United States. He is the author of four poetry books: Reticent Bodies (2009), Floating Life (2012), Operations (2016), and Are the Rivers in Your Poems Real (2019). Surani lives in Toronto.

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