THE FIRE IN HIS WAKE de Spencer Wolff

Through the parallel stories of an African refugee and a hapless UN worker in Morocco, this debut novel spins a fine web of modern trauma and hope.

by Spencer Wolff
McSweeney’s, July 2020

THE FIRE IN HIS WAKE recounts the journey of Arès Sbigzenou, a Congolese refugee left for dead in the wake of ethnic violence. Arès’ fate, like the fate of millions, sends him on a kinetic flight across northern Africa with Europe as his goal. He reaches Rabat, Morocco, where he binds himself to a desperate community of exiles, and meets Simon, a young UN worker, whose journey is altogether different but no less fraught. While Arès struggles to rebuild his life and come to terms with his past, Simon grapples with the moral compromises inherent in his profession and position. Part sweeping portrait of life in the Maghreb, part epic tale of hope and perseverance, THE FIRE IN HIS WAKE carries the reader from the administrative reckonings of the UN staff to the daily hazards faced by the refugees in the streets and on their risky crossings to Europe. When a storm gathers at the UNHCR, and the ghosts of the Congo’s violence unexpectedly surface in Rabat, the two men find themselves on a collision course, setting the stage for the novel’s unforgettable and genre-busting ending.

Spencer Wolff is a former UN worker in Rabat, Morocco, who has worked directly with refugee populations and has witnessed firsthand the pain and frustration of displaced persons. It was this work that prompted him to write his first novel. A photographer and filmmaker, Spencer is the recipient of an Overseas Press Club Award for his work at The New York Times, and his feature-length documentary STOP premiered at DOC NYC and was awarded a Silver Gavel by the American Bar Association. He holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from Yale University. He speaks French, Spanish, Italian, and German fluently, and is proficient in Portuguese. Spencer splits his time between New York and Paris.

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