Globe and Mail Best 100 Book of 2015
49th Shelf Most Anticipated 2015 Fall Fiction Selection
The secret world of Mauritian street gangs is not for the faint of heart. Fraught with peril and mischief, its inner workings are a mystery to the daughter of one of its most valued members: Serge, the Grand Menteur. A liar of exceptional caliber whose sole responsibility is to purposefully confuse police with alibis, the Menteur fears for the criminal future he has unwittingly introduced into his daughter’s life, when her clear knack for violence attracts the notice of senior gang members.
Mauritian Kreol, English, and French blend together into a heady brew of language in Grand Menteur. Written in a nuanced style reflecting the island-nation’s convoluted history of colonialism, this debut novel by Jean Marc Ah-Sen sheds an unflinching light on the poverty and down-and-out hardship of a shadow class of immigrants from the 1940s to the ’80s.
Their story, with elements of child/parent relations and the tumultuous emotions tied to leaving home for greener pastures, will resonate with readers familiar with diasporic fiction, adventure and travelogue writing, and ‘lock, stock and barrel’ British crime fiction.
Watch the Interview with Jean Marc Ah-Sen:
Watch the Book Launch and Reading:
Grand Menteur Recruitment Video
In 1974, the Mauritian street gang the Sous joined forces with the Crosscuss Gang in a bid to increase recruitment to their respective forces. A series of recruitment promos began airing on Mauritian television in the winter of 1974.
Listen to the song recorded by the Black Derwish and company, associates of the Grand Menteur to accompany the book:
– Photo credit: Sous Preservation Society
About the song:
“When Cherelle Kaartikeya Derwish and Rhonda Mayasous took over the reins of Sousse Pouce Records in 1996, they set for themselves the daunting task of remastering the key works of the then-defunct Mauritian label. Beginning with her father’s back catalogue, Cherelle selected “Dire moi ene coup” as the first single to reclaim the airwaves under this bold mandate. Unfortunately, the multritrack tapes in existence only included the drum and vocal tracks her late father had laid down. The original players having passed on, Cherelle and Rhonda press-ganged some local talent to rerecord the missing parts to the best of their ability. Victims of broken-hearted circumstance, the legend of the Sous Gang hobbles on.”
Praise for Grand Menteur:
“Jean Marc Ah-Sen’s Grand Menteur is a dazzling display of diction, filled with Mauritian Kreol, Latin tags and masterful English, with wonderful narrative momentum. From the island of Mauritius to the island of England and later, homeless shelters in Toronto, it is a fascinating story of Mauritian street gangs, emigration, capers that don’t pay, and a father-daughter relationship like no other. Jean Marc Ah-Sen’s Grand Menteur is voice-driven fiction at its lyrical best.” —John Goldbach, author of The Devil and The Detective
“What a strange and extraordinary book — it reads like a magic trick no one’s ever done before or a myth of a myth — it’s too mysterious, too original, too funny, too pure, too profound to be the work of a mortal being.” —Lee Henderson, author of The Man Game
“Jean-Marc Ah-Sen’s Grand Menteur is a playful yet searing intersection of narrative form and language. Ah-Sen’s admirable linguistic dexterity succeeds in drawing the reader into caring deeply for the father-daughter relationship that is the heart of this innovative novel. This is a fine balance to achieve. Ah-Sen does so with compassion and flare. ” —Nadia Bozak, author of Orphan Love and El Nino
Read an exclusive excerpt from Grand Menteur —Open Book Toronto
“Unsentimental but passionate, a singular book.” —Globe and Mail
“Ah-Sen’s novel of a young woman growing up in Mauritius’s criminal underclass is appropriately crude, evasive and linguistically rich. The end will have you flipping right back to the beginning.” —Globe and Mail, Selected as a Top 100 Book of 2015
“[T]he real success of Grand Menteur, is the writing. The vocabulary and language are alive on the page…” —JC Sutcliffe for Full Stop
“Ah-Sen does not assume that his reader is unintelligent. He expects you to keep up and to follow along. He certainly has a masterful grasp of diction and many of his sentences are delightful and fascinating. It’s a story that demands your full attention.” —Worn Pages and Ink
“Ah-Sen’s debut novel is an impressive undertaking.” —Broken Pencil
“Grand Menteur is a story about teeth-grinding and bitter rivalries and revenge….But it’s also about a girl and her father. And what one does when one’s father is a Grand Menteur.” —Buried in Print
“[Grand Menteur] is a fascinating twist on a common feature of diasporic writing in which characters negotiate connections between ‘‘there’’ – the family’s homeland – and ‘‘here’’ – the family’s new home – to forge a hybrid
identity.” —Brandon McFarland, University of Toronto Quarterly, Volume 86, Number 3, Summer 2017
Interviews and Profiles:
The WAR Series: Writers as Readers with Jean Marc Ah-Sen —Open Book Toronto
The Recommend with Jean Marc Ah-Sen —49th Shelf
Jean Marc Ah Sen: Le barman qui voulait devenir écrivain —l’express.mu
First Fiction Fridays: Grand Menteur —All Lit Up
“All Music is Coded,” an Interview with Jean Marc Ah-Sen —James Lindsay, Open Book Toronto
June Type Reader at Type Books Interview with Jean Marc Ah-Sen —Type Books Blog
12 riveting historical novels by Canadian authors —CBC Books
Jean Marc Ah-Sen was born in East York, Ontario, in 1987. He comes from a family of Mauritian winemakers and was a frequent contributor to the Innis Herald, a University of Toronto newspaper. He lives in Toronto with his wife and son. Grand Menteur is his first novel and it was chosen as a Top 100 Book of 2015 by The Globe and Mail. Find Ah-Sen on Facebook (www.facebook.com/jeanmarcahsen)or Twitter @jeanmarcahsen.