Book review: Serengotti by Eugen Bacon

'Serengotti' is a testament to Eugen Bacon's storytelling prowess and serves as a reminder of the enduring power of connection.

Serengotti by Eugen Bacon captivates readers with its exploration of displacement, trauma and resilience within a community in rural Australia. The narrative takes us on a journey through Ch’anzu’s day filled with challenges such as losing hir job and uncovering wife Scarlet’s betrayal. Seeking solace and guidance, Ch’anzu embarks on a life-changing adventure to Serengotti, a migrant African outpost in rural Australia.

Bacon’s skilful mastery of language is evident throughout the book, which immerses readers in a tapestry of sensations and originality. Through Ch’anzu’s perspective, the novel delves into the experiences of the displaced community, gracefully intertwining moments of beauty and fractures. Ch’anzu finds solace in hir Aunt Maé who becomes a pillar of comfort, offering wisdom and support as zie embarks on this transformative journey.

The narrative weaves together themes of dislocation and tragedy, in turn evoking introspection. Ch’anzu’s personal struggles mirror the disappearance of hir brother Tex and the simmering tensions involving violence and infidelity within Serengotti. The novel masterfully explores what it means to be African in Australia while delving into the complexities surrounding identity and belonging.

Ch’anzu’s humour balances these themes with moments of levity. Bacon’s playful writing style shines through in Ch’anzu’s monologue, which is filled with relatable observations. There is a perfect blend of introspection and humour in the storytelling that captivates and stimulates deep thought.

Ch’anzu’s arrival in Serengotti is accompanied by a group of characters who play roles in community healing and progress. The depiction of Moraa’s Black Soul restaurant and the counselling service showcases the community’s approach to addressing trauma. Ch’anzu’s involvement in creating computer games as a platform for sharing stories adds an element to the narrative that highlights the healing power of creativity.

Bacon skillfully weaves references and cultural allusions into the story that add depth to its narrative. The exchanges with twin elders, Tau and Lau, are filled with banter and insightful observations that provoke contemplation. The use of the second person narrative also strengthens readers’ connection with Ch’anzu.

At its core, this novel embraces honesty by challenging norms and conventions. The exploration of “shaming” as a weapon, along with the storyline involving “Basket” and Tex offers reflections on vulnerability and bravery. The author’s talent for capturing the intricacies of emotions and relationships is truly praiseworthy.

Read: Book review: The Days Toppled Over, Vidya Madabushi

Serengotti goes beyond being a story; it pays tribute to women who unite families against all odds. It honours those who have experienced displacement and tragedy, celebrating their strength and ability to heal. Bacon has crafted a written masterpiece that gracefully delves into the intersection of identity, trauma and healing.

With its captivating characters, language and insightful exploration of displacement and resilience, Serengotti serves as a testament to Bacon’s storytelling prowess. This novel is a reminder of the enduring power of connection, and our capacity to find solace and hope even in life’s most challenging moments.

Serengotti by Eugen Bacon
Publisher: Transit Lounge
ISBN: 9780645565362
Format: Paperback
Pages: 288pp
Release date: 1 August 2023

This review is published under the Amplify Collective, an initiative supported by The Walkley Foundation and made possible through funding from the Meta Australian News Fund.

Manuela Barry, an emerging poet, artist, and storyteller from South Australia, draws inspiration from her Sudanese heritage to explore themes of identity and culture. Her performances provoke introspection, sparking transformative conversations and inspiring change. Recognizing the lack of cultural diversity in the arts, Manuela uses her writing and performances to amplify her unique perspective, solidifying her status as a rising star in spoken word and poetry.