Véronique Olmi’s novel retells the story of a strong young woman who was exploited and dehumanized before finding herself in more merciful and hopeful circumstances…’
Véronique Olmi’s novel retells the story of a strong young woman who was exploited and dehumanized before finding herself in more merciful and hopeful circumstances. In “Bakhita,” fraught personal experiences intersect with historical and political events and time-honoured religious practices, all encompassed within the span of the protagonist’s own life — which moves from a village in late-19th-century Sudan to a convent in post-World-War-II Italy, and from slavery to sainthood.
Translated from the French by Adriana Hunter into clear and affecting prose, “Bakhita” unfolds a distinctive array of timely concerns — the subjugation of women of colour, human trafficking, female solidarity, personal and institutional conflicts that knot together issues of race, class, gender and religion — and explores them through the suffering, willpower and undiminished dignity of a small frightened girl turned resolute young woman turned gentle old nun. The novel also joins a much larger tradition of accounts of holy women and men that have been compiled over the centuries, including the “Storia Meravigliosa” (“marvelous or wonderful story”), a 1931 chronicle of Sister Josephine Bakhita’s life that was disseminated by the Italian religious order she had joined.
Adapted by Anne Kelleher, RENATE Communications.