The Libyan Tuareg author, Ibrahim Al-Koni, tells the tale of Asouf, a solitary goatherd who is the guardian of Wadi Mathendous. The similarly reclusive mouflon (barbary sheep or waddan, right) feature heavily and symbolically. His father died trying to hunt a mouflon, and Asouf once escaped from the Italian occupiers by changing into a mouflon and heading for the hills. One day aggressive modern hunters (one of them telling named Cain) come to Wadi Mat’, and insist he leads them to any remaining mouflon in the Messak.
One presumes there is some kind of allegory being played out here. Cain is a voracious meat-eater. Asouf is a veggie. One is the incomer ravaging the desert, the other lives very humbly, at one with the environment. Nice though it is to read something in English by an indigenous writer of the Sahara, and even a Tuareg, the themes were not that subtly evoked and I spent more time picturing the well-known Fezzanese settings than acquiring any deeper meaning other than: nomads – good; modern man – bad. But don’t take my word for it – readers with better tuned sensitivities may get the message.