By Margaret Goldik

A review of Mask by Esther Dagan

Published on October 1, 2002

Esther Dagan

Amrad Publications

Galerie Amrad African Art Publication’s owner Dagan has turned from art books to fiction. These seven short stories are rooted firmly in a particular era and place – Africa in the 1960’s and ’70’s – and are perhaps a new way for the author to share her passion for African ritual.

Dagan, who has degrees in theatre and drama from Tel Aviv University, and who graduated from a dance academy in Paris, has travelled widely in the sub-Sahara. The experiences of these years are the raw material for her book. The “mask” of the title story refers on one level to the masks the narrator comes to love and, finally, collect. On another level it refers to the masks all humans wear as they interact with each other, whether or not they are from different cultures. Collision of culture is a theme in several of the stories.

The stories are at their best when the rituals take over: the Elvis puppets in Gabon; the hunt for the Tihuti story/myth, which leads to several different versions of one myth, all true; the man buying his son a bicycle, piece by piece, over the years. Dagan’s respect for Africa is inherent in each. mRb

Margaret Goldik is a former editor of the Montreal Review of Books.



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